Relocating With Children After Divorce
There are many reasons why you may want to move your child outside of New Jersey after you are divorced. Better employment opportunities and being closer to family for support are the top reasons I hear from my clients. These cases can be tricky. While one parent is certainly entitled to pursue a better living situation, it cannot be done to the detriment of the other parent’s relationship with the child.
If you are the parent wishing to make the move, or if your co-parent has mentioned this possibility it is critical for you to sit with an experienced attorney who can help you to understand and plan out a legal strategy.
Here in New Jersey there are laws surrounding this very issue. A custodial parent may not remove children, who are native of New Jersey or who have lived here for five (5) years, from the state without consent of the other parent or a Court Order.
Additionally, through previous cases heard through the New Jersey Superior Court, there are a set of standards and procedures that must be followed.
If you are the custodial parent, you must first show that the move is:
1) Being done in good faith and not to punish the other parent.
2) The Children will not suffer from the move.
There are many ways to do this and an experienced NJ Child Custody attorney can help you make the most compelling and detailed case based on your individual circumstances. Once you have proven these two factors, the burden shifts to the non-custodial parent to show that the move is not being made in good faith and not in the child’s best interest.
Additionally, the court can consider additional factors:
- Reasons given for the move;
- Reasons given by the non-custodial parent for opposing the move;
- The history between the parties as it relates to the positions of the parties in supporting/opposing the move;
- Will the child have access to educational, health, and recreational activities at least equal to what the child enjoys in New Jersey;
- Whether there are equal or superior accommodations for children who have specific needs or talents available in the new state;
- The ability of the parties to develop a parenting time schedule that will allow the non-custodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child;
- The likelihood that the custodial parent will foster the children’s relationships with the non-custodial parent once the move takes place;
- The effect of said move on the ability of the parties to have a continuous relationship with extended families;
- Children’s preference (depending on age);
- If a child is approaching his or her senior year in high school, a move should generally not be permitted until after graduation;
- The ability of the non-custodial parent to move;
- Any other factor bearing on the children’s best interest.
Not all factors will be equally relevant in all cases.
If you find yourself wanting to relocate with your children, you will need an attorney who can effectively represent your side of the story. It is of utmost important to show that, even with an arrangement of joint legal custody, you can shoulder a majority of the care of the children. Additionally, you need a creative plan in place to ensure that the co-parent will be able to maintain a significant relationship with the children.
If your co-parent is attempting to take your children out of state, then it is your best interest to be able to document your responsibilities with the children, and hire a lawyer who can effectively represent your side. Do you help with homework, how many nights a week do they really spend with you, how involved are you in extra curricular activities, the care of the child, and how involved you are in their academics and scheduling? All of these particulars (and many others) need to be presented in the best possible way.
There seems to be growing trend in the New Jersey courts that custodial parents have the right move the children. This is found on the belief that in-tact families frequently relocate for employment and personal reasons. Additionally, it is believed that while the non-custodial parent may not see the child as frequently, they can enjoy visits of longer duration, but also acknowledge this isn’t a perfect arrangement.