Protecting What Matters Most

Is it legal to leave NY with a child if there’s no custody order?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Child Custody

Child custody matters can be complex and emotionally charged, particularly when parents do not have a custody order in place – and this is particularly true when one parent decides that they suddenly want to relocate somewhere out of New York state with their child.

Without a formal custody agreement in place, do you have any right to stop your co-parent from leaving with your child?

You generally have to have custody in order for “custodial interference” to occur

Under New York law, custodial interference or “parental kidnapping” can occur when a parent removes a child under 16 years of age from the child’s legal custodian with the intention of keeping the child either permanently or for an extended period, knowing they don’t have the right to do so. The severity of the offense can increase if the child is taken to another state or if their safety and health are endangered.

In the absence of a custody order, however, both parents generally have equal rights to the child. Absent extreme situations that put the child in harm’s way, it’s broadly legal for a parent to take their child out of state with them. Naturally, this can pose a significant worry if you’re a parent who has no formal custody orders over their child in place.

You aren’t entirely without recourse to stop a move from happening

If you suspect that your child’s other parent may attempt to remove your child from the state without your consent, the best move you might make is to seek an emergency custody order. While temporary, this can be accomplished quickly, without the wait that comes along with a regular custody hearing. The custody order can later be modified through additional temporary orders or even a final decree, but the interim order can provide you with some peace of mind while the situation is resolved.

Child custody issues can be complex, particularly in the absence of formal agreements. To better protect your rights and your child’s well-being, it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance about the specifics of your situation.


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