What if I Want to Leave the State of New Jersey With My Child?
When parents separate as a result of divorce, many challenges may arise, including deciding on visitation time with children. One of the less foreseeable impacts of divorce is how it affects plans for one parent who wants to move outside of the state, due to work or other reasons. Many parents often wonder if it is even possible to relocate out of state with their children after a divorce in New Jersey.
How Does Child Custody Impact Your Decision to Move Out of New Jersey?
Before diving into how a parent’s decision to move out of state may be affected after a divorce, it is first important to understand how different custody arrangements work. New Jersey courts usually base their child custody decisions on the “best interests” of the child, and courts often believe that children will benefit the most from having both parents in their life unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Legal custody is a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding their child’s welfare, education, and health, among other things. Physical custody speaks to the child’s physical presence with a parent. Joint legal custody may be ordered when both parents are cooperative and hold a strong conviction for shared parenting, leading to a shared responsibility for parenting decisions. Similarly, joint physical custody exists when children share close to equal time with each parent.
Moving With a Child
Life circumstances change for many reasons, including but not limited to the needs of extended family, a new job opportunity, or military service. Families are relocating more often now than in the past as social mobility increases, leading to a greater need for parenting plans to adapt to these changes. Depending on each family’s particular circumstances, courts in New Jersey may allow a parent to relocate with his or her children. As part of the decision-making process, a judge will review the parenting arrangement currently in existence.
If a parent who has primary physical custody (“parent of primary residence”) of the child seeks to move out of New Jersey with the child, the custodial parent must follow certain procedures before effectuating such a move. In contrast, if a non-custodial parent (“parent of alternate residence”) seeks to move out of the state, there are no laws restricting their relocation. The rationale for this is that if the parent of primary residence relocates with a child to a different state, it becomes much more difficult for the parent of alternate residence to spend time with the child based on their court-ordered visitation arrangement.
New Jersey law allows a parent to relocate with a child to a different state either with the consent of the other parent or a court order granting them permission to do so. If the parent of alternate residence agrees that the parent of primary residence may move out of state with the child the agreement should be reduced to writing, thereby preventing any misunderstandings down the road.
Challenging an Out-of-State Move
If, however, a parent of alternate residence does not consent to the child relocating out of state, the parent of primary residence must seek a court order granting them permission to remove the child. The parent of primary residence must file a motion with the court to relocate with the child to another state by offering a good faith reason for the move, including those mentioned above. A plan must also be offered for when and how the child and parent of alternate residence will enjoy parenting time together. The goal is to maintain a good relationship between the child and the parent who remains in New Jersey. Phone calls, webcams, and photographs will also be considered as part of the communication plan. The parent of alternate residence will be given an opportunity to reply with reasons why the child should not leave the state, which may include considerations as to the child’s safety, health, education, and general welfare.
A court will consider twelve issues before deciding whether relocation out of the state in is the child’s best interests, including:
- The reasons the custodial parent wants to move;
- Whether the non-custodial parent has the ability to relocate;
- Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school;
- The preference of the child, if of sufficient age and capacity;
- The effect of the move on extended family in New Jersey and elsewhere;
- The possibility of the parent of primary residence continuing to maintain the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent;
- Whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the non-custodial parent to maintain a beneficial relationship with the child;
- The resources the handle any special needs or talents of the child in each state;
- The educational, recreational, and health opportunities for the child in each state;
- The history of court and personal dealings between the parents;
- The reasons the non- custodial parent wants their child to remain in the state;
- Any other reasons that may affect the child’s best interests.
Moving with a Joint Custody Arrangement
Finally, courts must consider situations where a joint custody situation exists. If a move is contemplated, a court will handle the case as a modification of custody due to changes in circumstances. As a result, this will lead to a full review of the child’s best interests, and may lead to one parent obtaining full custody of the child(ren). The risk is that the parent who obtains full custody could either be the parent moving or the parent who stays in New Jersey.
Contact a Skilled Attorney at Weiner Law Group Today To Help You Carefully Plan an Out-of-State Move
Our attorneys have many years of experience helping parents move out of state with children. The process can be time-consuming and the attorneys at Weiner Law Group will help guide you to achieve the best possible results in your case. Call at 973.403.1100 or contact us online today to learn more about how we can assist your family law needs.