When parents share child custody in New Jersey, it is inevitable that a new job, a new relationship or some other life event may necessitate a move out of state. If you are the non-custodial parent, there is nothing to prevent you from moving, with the understanding that the children will not be moving with you.
However, if you are the custodial parent and expect that the children will come along, you will likely come up against resistance from your ex. This is especially true if the move is likely to limit the non-custodial parent’s access to the children. For that reason, laws in New Jersey have been created to give the custodial and non-custodial parents a fair process for determining whether or not an out-of-state move is in the best interest of everyone involved .
What Steps are Required Before a Custodial Parent Can Move out of NJ
Unless the custodial parent is removing the child from the local area to protect the child from the immediate risk of physical harm, there are steps that he or she must take before moving out of state. Exceptions are made when the custodial parent fears imminent physical abuse. In that case, different laws apply. However, in most cases, to move, the custodial parent must either:
- Get the consent of the non-custodial parent, or
- Obtain a court order allowing the move.
Getting Consent from the Non-Custodial Parent to Move a Child Out of State
In the best of situations, the two parents have decent lines of communication. If so, talk to each other! If the custodial parent does not object to the custodial parent’s move, ask for the approval in writing and start packing!
If you are on good terms with the other parent, you may think the written statement isn’t necessary. It is suggested though, because although it is not required, if a question arises later, the custodial parent has the document to prove that consent was given. Keep in mind, this consent doesn’t have to be elaborate; a simple statement will do. Having the document signed by both parents and notarized will strengthen the validity of the document. The custodial parent must report the move, and the reason for it, to the local police, the county prosecutor or DCP&P (Division of Child Protection and Permanency) within 24 hours.
What Happens if the Non-Custodial Parent Doesn’t Consent to the Move?
If the non-custodial parent does not consent to the move, it will be necessary for the custodial parent to get a court order before the children are packed up and moved. Why? Simply put, if the move takes place before disagreements are ironed out and consents are given, the non-custodial parent can go to court asking that the move be prohibited.
When the custodial parent petitions the court for permission to move, even though the non-custodial parent disagrees, the custodial parent must prove there is:
- A good faith reason for moving. Moving closer to supportive family members or to a better job are examples of reasons that most courts would consider valid.
- A plan for how, when and where the non-custodial parent will continue to have access to time with the children. The plan must provide the times and places where the children and non-custodial parent will be together, who will travel and who will pay for the expense of these visits. Other types of contact, such as cell phone contact, email or Skype, can strengthen the plan, as well.
What Happens When the Non-Custodial Parent Wants to Block the Move?
In this case, the non-custodial parent must respond with a sworn statement providing reasons why the children should not be allowed to be moved out of New Jersey. The court will consider valid reasons including serious concerns about the proposed visitation plan or fear for the children’s welfare in the new location.
How Does the Court Decide Whether or Not the Children Can Move?
If the court determines that a custodial parent’s reasons for removing the child are in good faith (not intended to interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent), and determines that a reasonable parenting and visitation plan will be arranged, the court may hold a hearing to settle the dispute.
At that hearing, the court will consider many issues before making a decision. The matters the court will consider include:
- The reasons why the custodial parent wants to move
- The reasons why the non-custodial parent objects to the move
- The history of the parents’ interactions in court and in their personal relationship
- The educational, health, and recreational resources available to the child in each state
- The resources to address any special needs or talents of the child in each state
- Whether or not the move is going to allow the non-custodial parent to maintain a complete and on-going relationship with the child
- The intent of the custodial parent to foster the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent
- How the move will impact extended family relationships in New Jersey and in the new location
- When teenage children are involved, what their preferences are in regard to the move
- Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school
- The ability, financial and otherwise, of the non-custodial parent to relocate
- Other factors bearing on the child’s interest.
Once the court has considered all the answers to these issues, a judge will render a decision for or against the move.
When Is It a Good Idea to Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney?
Whether you are the parent who needs to make a move, or one who believes that the move will damage your relationship with your children, take some time to speak with a South Jersey family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.
Call Posternock Apell, PC today at (866) 879-8855 or 856-642-6445 or fill out the contact form to schedule your consultation.