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Court concluded that it did not have enough information to decided whether to grant the mother’s petition to relocate. Mason v. Mason, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 4018 (N.Y. App. Div. 2023)


The case of Mason v. Mason, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 4018, presents a complex scenario involving a relocation petition within the context of a custody dispute. The petitioner-respondent mother sought permission to relocate with the children to North Carolina while the father wanted the children to move with him to Georgia.

Relocation petitions in New York involve a custodial parent requesting court permission to move with a child, often to another state. Courts assess such petitions based on the child’s best interests, considering factors like the reasons for the move, the quality of the parent-child relationships, and the impact on future contact with the noncustodial parent. The seminal case of Tropea v. Tropea guides these determinations, emphasizing a case-by-case analysis to determine the outcome most likely to serve the child’s well-being. Relocation cases require a thorough examination of various factors to ensure a fair and informed decision aligning with the child’s best interests.

The parties, Dynisha Enjoli Mason (mother) and Rakeem Tamar Mason (father), initially had joint custody, with the father having primary physical custody in Onondaga County. After the father relocated with the children to Georgia in 2018, the mother returned to Onondaga County, leading to a new custody order. Joint custody persisted, but the mother gained primary physical custody. Subsequently, the mother sought pcermission to relocate to North Carolina, while the father cross-petitioned for primary physical custody in Georgia. Citing the mother’s failure to establish that the children would be better off economically and educationally in North Carolina than in Onondaga Count, the Family Court denied the mother’s petition to relocate with the children. The mother appealed.

The primary issue revolves around the mother’s petition to relocate with the children and the court’s determination that this move was not in the children’s best interests. The court’s decision becomes complex as both parents sought to relocate the children’s primary residence outside of New York state.

Holding and Discussion
The appellate court reversed the order denying the mother’s petition, finding that the court’s determination lacked a sound and substantial basis in the record. The case is remitted to the Supreme Court, Onondaga County, for further proceedings.  This does not mean that the court granted the mother’s petition to relocate with the children. It means that the court remitted the case for further proceedings.

The court acknowledged the atypical nature of the case, where both parents sought to relocate the children away from Onondaga County, but the evidence presented focused solely on the mother’s request to move to North Carolina. The court’s decision heavily relied on the mother’s alleged failure to demonstrate the children’s economic and educational benefit in North Carolina. However, it failed to consider factors like the impact on the children’s contact with the father in Georgia and the emotional aspects of the relocation.

The court’s exclusive focus on the mother’s petition, while ignoring the father’s cross-petition for primary physical custody, raised concerns about a comprehensive assessment of the situation. The court’s failure to consider the totality of the circumstances and relevant factors contributed to the appellate court’s decision to reverse the order.

Thus, the lower court was ordered to review all relevant facts before making a decision. Such facts include the reason the father sought that children move to Georgia, whether the children would be better off living with him, as well as whether the children would be better off relocating with the mother to North Carolina.

Mason v. Mason highlights the challenges courts face when both parents seek to relocate the children’s primary residence. The appellate court’s decision underscores the importance of a thorough evaluation of all relevant factors, including the impact on the parent-child relationship and the best interests of the children. The remittance of the case for further proceedings emphasizes the need for a comprehensive examination, considering both parents’ requests and ensuring a fair and just resolution. It also shows the court’s commitment to making sure that the decision make would be in the best interests of the children, given the totality of the circumstances.

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