Best Interests of Children Outweighs Legitimate Purpose for Child Relocation

In a post-judgment divorce action involving child relocation, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield ruled that although a mother had legitimate purposes for relocating to Boston with her minor children, it would not be in the best interests of the children for her to do so and, as such, denied her motion to relocate. The parties were the parents of two minor children, and divorced in 2007 after six and a half years of marriage. As part of their divorce decree granting joint legal and shared physical custody, the parties included a parenting agreement specifically outlining the care, custody, control and parenting of the children.

The parenting agreement included a detailed shared physical custody schedule, wherein the children would regularly be with the father on weekends and a period of two and a half hours every Tuesday and Thursday night. The parents lived in close proximity, and as such the children shared a strong, loving bond with both parents. Notably, the father developed his parenting skills, learned to watch his children on his own, and enjoyed being fully involved in their extracurricular and school activities.

The mother remarried in 2008, and due to her new-husband’s success at his employer in Boston, limited employment opportunities in Connecticut, and growing tension with the father, she sought to relocate to Boston with her children. On the alternative, the mother sought permission to relocate to the northern part of Connecticut. The father objected to the motion for relocation.

General Statutes § 46b-56d provides that when a motion for relocation that would have a significant impact on an existing parenting plan is considered, the relocating parent must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there exists a legitimate purpose for relocation, that the proposed location is reasonable, and that relocation is in the bests interest of the children. The court will consider the reasons for seeking or opposing the proposed relocation, the quality of the relationships between the children and each parent, the impact of the proposed relocation on the child’s contact with the non-relocating parent, the economic, emotional and educational impact on both the relocating parent and the child from the move, and whether or not the relationship with the non-moving parent will be preserved. Each parent’s rights and responsibilities are also considered. General Statutes § 46b-56(b).

The court acknowledged that the mother had a legitimate purpose for relocating to Boston, and that Boston was a reasonable location, as her now-husband was employed there. However, the court reiterated that it must be guided by what is in the best interests of the child. The court also found that the father had legitimate reasons to oppose the relocation, notably the significant amount of time he spent parenting the children and the strong bond that exists between them. The Court explained that allowing the proposed relocation would result in the children losing meaningful and extensive parental involvement with their father, and that he would not be able to preserve the relationships he had through a new visitation arrangement. As such, the court found relocation not to be in the best interests of the children.

Whether advancing or defending a post-judgment motion to modify custody or visitation, a divorced parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office at 203-221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com.