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Mother Seeks to Relocate Child

The parties were married in January 2004, separated about a year and a half later and were divorced on July 13, 2006. They are the parents of a six-year-old boy born on May 17, 2004. A New York Family Lawyer said the stipulation settling the divorce case granted the mother legal and physical child custody. The father was given visitation rights every week from Monday at 8:00 p.m. until Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. The stipulation also allowed relocation within 25–miles of the father’s house in Bronx County.

The father has had a history of irregular employment and is currently not employed. At the time of trial, the mother, who is remarried, cared for her younger child from her second marriage, full time.

A New York Custody Lawyer said that after the parties separated, the mother remained in the marital apartment in the Bronx with the child for two years. In the fall of 2007, she began working as a project administrator in the construction field. In 2007, she moved with the child and her boyfriend to Connecticut. The mother testified that she always wanted her son to be in a suburban environment. She stated that she was trying to mirror my own childhood. I had a wonderful suburban upbringing. The relationship in Connecticut ended when the boyfriend returned to his native New Zealand. The mother returned to New York with the child and moved into an apartment in Harlem.

In March 2008, the mother met her second husband on Match.com. The second husband was retired from the Air Force, lived in North Carolina and was then involved in a nation-wide job search. Ultimately, a Queens Family Lawyer said the second husband took a job with Northrop Grumman in San Diego. He had requested to work at Northrop Grumman’s Long Island branch, but the company could not accommodate his request. The mother and her second husband became engaged in May 2008.

Soon after her engagement, the mother approached the father about moving to California to live with the second husband. The father was concerned about the distance and the stability of the mother’s new relationship. The parties therefore met with a mediator to try to work out an arrangement by which the mother could leave the child with the father temporarily while she settled in California. The mediator sent a letter, dated May 12, 2008 that purported to memorialize the parties’ agreement. The letter stated that the parties agreed that the child would stay with the father from June 27, 2008 until December 31, 2008, with the mother making several long weekend visits to New York. Mother and son were also to participate in a webcam phone call two to three times a week. The letter did not address where the child would live after December 31, 2008. However, the father refused to sign an agreement embodying these terms and instead asked the mother to sign over custody to him. She refused. A Queens Custody Lawyer said the mother left for California on June 26, 2008. She claims that she never intended the father to have permanent custody, but arrangements to move to California had become irreversible by the time she learned that the father did not agree.

The mother gave birth to the second husband’s son on April 4, 2009. She and her second husband were also married in April 2009.

On July 17, 2008, the father filed a petition seeking sole legal and physical child custody, claiming that the mother had abandoned the child. On December 1, 2008, the mother filed a petition for relocation. The court consolidated the two petitions. Before the hearing, the father withdrew his petition for sole child custody. Accordingly, the court considered only the relocation application.

It was not until August 2009 that a two-day hearing finally took place. The parties were the only witnesses. The court did not issue a decision until almost a year later, on July 19, 2010, granting the mother’s relocation petition. During the time the parties were waiting for the court’s decision, the child continued to live with the father. After the court’s decision was issued, the child moved to California in compliance with the court’s order.

First, there is no question that the California home is financially more stable than the father’s home. The stepfather has a steady job with Northrop Grumman that provides his family with health insurance. By contrast, the father is not currently working. Although he has been offered a job as a teacher’s aide, he has postponed his start date. He is currently on some type of public assistance and receives money from his parents in Ireland. He readily admits that it’s not been easy like money wise. He is not currently in a relationship. Given his bleak financial circumstances, with no career or family in New York, it would appear that there is nothing keeping the father from moving to San Diego himself to be closer to his son.

Further, living in San Diego ensures that the child will grow up in the same house as his half brother. The father agreed that it was very important for the child to have a brother in his life. He even testified that he actually expected the child eventually to move to California so that he could be with his brother. The father was merely opposed to the date of the move. The mother established that the child would have access to an education that was just as good as, if not better than, his school in New York. Moreover, she testified that her second husband’s status as a veteran will allow the child to attend college within the State of California’s university system free of charge.

The record also reflects that the mother went out of her way to facilitate communication between the child and his father. The same could not be said of the father with respect to communication between the child and his mother. Finally, the child’s own attorney recommended that the court permit the mother to relocate with the child, a factor that militates in favor of affirming the result the court reached.

The characterization of the mother as putting her own romantic interests ahead of her son’s welfare is rank speculation. It is just as likely that the mother, herself an only child, was pursuing marriage aggressively to produce a sibling for her son, before he became much older, and an intact family. Regardless of the mother’s motivations, it is the best interest of the child that must guide our decision. Relocation ensures that the child will live in a family that is stable financially. He will be with his brother. The amount of time spent with his father will diminish. However, we find that the visitation schedule, that requires the mother to pay for air travel for the child to be with the father on numerous extended weekend visits throughout the year in addition to extended summer and holiday visits, does not deprive the father of the opportunity to maintain a close relationship with his son.

Accordingly, the order of the Family Court of Bronx County which granted the mother’s petition to modify the judgment of divorce and the Supreme Court of Bronx County to permit the mother to relocate to California with the parties’ child should be affirmed without costs.

When a separated parent decides to re-marry, it does not mean that they will be less of a parent to their children. Furthermore, not all stepparents are bad. Sometimes stepdads and stepmoms treat their stepchild as if they are their own. If you want to prove to your former partner that you and your newly-found partner are worthy of a child’s custody, visit Stephen Bilkis and Associates to discuss your problem with the Bronx County Family Lawyer. If you are being accused of child abuse, the Bronx County Domestic Violence Attorney can help you in court.

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