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Relocating Mid-School Year After Divorce

Child concentrated boy with laptop doing homework with headphone.

Divorce is a time of change. After your divorce, you may decide to change jobs, move to be closer to family, or simply need a change of scenery to reflect the new chapter in your life. When you have shared children with your ex, however, moving can become complicated. If you decide to relocate, can you bring your kids with you? If your ex consents, the matter is simple. If they do not consent, the issue is far more challenging. Who gets to decide whether you can relocate with your children? Can your ex stop the move to protect their custody rights? Continue reading to learn about the child relocation laws in New Jersey, and call a seasoned New Jersey child custody lawyer with any questions.

Following Recent Court Decisions, Best Interests of the Child Applies in Relocation Matters

Historically, the parent of primary residence (PPR or custodial parent) had wide latitude to relocate with the children. Under New Jersey law, parents who wish to relocate with the children must obtain consent from the children’s other parent or the court. New Jersey courts, however, typically allowed the PPR to take the kids, even to a new state, without permission from the non-custodial parent, so long as there was a legitimate reason for the move and it wouldn’t adversely affect the child. Non-custodial parents were left with little recourse if their ex decided to take the kids far away, as long as the relocation wasn’t a pure flight of fancy or malicious.

In 2017, however, the rules changed. The New Jersey Supreme Court dealt with a case in which a mother petitioned to relocate with her children to Utah to marry a Utah resident whom she had been dating. The children’s father objected. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the father, entirely overhauling the criteria for evaluating a parental relocation.

The Court decided that the fairest way to rule on parental relocation is to treat it like any other custody decision. That means conducting a full evaluation of the best interests of the child. Just because a parent wishes to relocate does not mean that it is in the child’s best interests. The best interests standard applies in all cases in which the parents have shared custody, regardless of whether the relocating parent is the PPR or whether the parents share equal parenting time.

Several factors apply when considering the best interests of the children. These factors are laid out in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 and include considerations such as:

  • The parent’s ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters relating to the child
  • The child’s interactions and relationship with each parent and siblings
  • The health and needs of the child
  • The parents’ fitness
  • Any history of abuse
  • The geographic proximity of the parents’ homes
  • The parents’ employment responsibilities
  • If the child is of sufficiently mature age, the child’s preferences

A parent seeking to relocate and bring the kids will have to prove that moving is in the child’s best interests. Relocating to a new state, far away from the child’s other parent as well as their school, friends, and extracurriculars may be seen as against the child’s best interests. Relocating in the middle of the school year may be seen as especially disruptive for the child. Parents seeking to relocate may find the court granting physical custody to the other parent should the PPR insist on moving regardless. If you are considering a move, talk to a seasoned New Jersey child custody attorney to ensure that you protect your parental rights.

Get Experienced Legal Help With Your New Jersey Custody Matter

If you need passionate and supportive legal help with child custody, child visitation, property division, premarital agreements, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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