As COVID-19 has taught us, life changes fast and sometimes unexpectedly. Your marriage set you on a new path, and each of your children altered your life in some way. You have likely gone through job changes and perhaps a move or two with your family. Now, you have gone through the heartbreak of divorce with the hope that this change, difficult as it is, will bring something good to your life.
You may be thinking that the best way to bring the most positive change is to relocate with the children, and in light of COVID-19, perhaps you have a plan for moving to a new city or out of New Jersey altogether. Before you pack your bags and sell your house, it is best to understand how the laws and your custody orders affect your choice to move away with the kids.
The child’s best interests
If your divorce settlement includes a shared custody arrangement with your spouse, moving away with the kids is not that simple. Even if your ex-spouse has visitation and the court awarded you sole custody, there are still rules you must follow, and you should be prepared to state your case before a judge.
The law regarding move-aways in New Jersey has a higher standard now than in the past. Instead of a move causing no harm to the child, the courts now want evidence that the move is in the best interests of the child. In other words, it isn’t enough that your children will get along in their new environment. You must prove that the move will be ideal for them, not just for you. Some examples of this include:
- Your children will be close to extended family, such as their grandparents and cousins.
- The children’s other parent will be able to maintain a regular visitation schedule.
- The move will offer opportunities for better housing in a safer neighborhood.
- The educational opportunities are better in your proposed new home.
- You will be able to find a better job to support the children.
As you can see, it is not enough that you have a great new job waiting for you. New Jersey courts want to know that taking the children to this new place will be better than remaining with their familiar home, school, friends and neighborhood.
While you may be fortunate to have an ex-spouse who is supportive of your desire to move away, this is not likely if your parenting partner is committed to remaining a constant and influential presence in their lives. You may have to prepare to present your argument before the court, and a family law professional can assist you in making a convincing case.