Can I Move Out of State with My Kids After a Divorce?
It is common for one parent to move to a new city or state after a divorce. There may be a new job, a new spouse, or a chance to start over. Regardless of the reason, a parent's move may affect custody in a significant way. There are many facts that can affect relocation custody decisions, and you need to be aware of them in advance. Contacting a custody attorney is a great first step.
Custodial parents who plan to move out of state with their unemancipated children must first obtain the consent of the other parent or the Court prior to moving out of state without the other parent’s consent or a Court order could have serious legal repercussions including the Court ordering you to return the child to New Jersey while the case is pending (I’ve seen this happen!)
Relocating with a Minor Child Out of State
In all New Jersey custody matters, the family court judge is guided by what is in the child's best interest, which you may have heard referred to as “the best interest of the child factors.” These are 14 statutory factors that the judge must consider when determining whether a request to relocate out of state is in the child’s best interest:
Ability of parents to communicate;
Willingness to accept custody;
Interaction of child with parents & siblings;
History of Domestic Violence;
Safety of child & parent from abuse;
Preference of child;
Needs of the Child;
Stability of home environment offered;
Quality & continuity of child’s education;
Fitness of parents;
Geographical proximity of homes;
Extent & quality of time spent with child before separation;
Parties employment responsibilities;
Age & number of children
The judge may (but is not required) consider other information such as:
Why a custodial parent chose to relocate.
What impact the move will have on the noncustodial parent's visitation rights
Whether the child has family in NJ and/or the state the child may relocate to
An out-of-state move (depending on the distance) may impact the non-custodial parent's access to the child. It is typically best for both parties and more importantly, the child, if both parents can work together to come up with a modified parenting time agreement that protects each parent's relationship with the child while meeting the primary objectives of each. One example may be for the non-custodial parent to have longer, but less frequent, visits with the child. If you are unable to reach an agreement, an attorney may be able to help you achieve the results you want so that both parents can continue to be an involved part of the child’s life.
Depending on the noncustodial parent's increased distance from the child if the move is permitted, adjustments may be made to child support to address the travel and lodging costs, and other travel-related expenses.
Q: If I have sole custody, can I move out of state without asking the court?
A: No. Parenting time is separate from legal decision-making. Moving out of New Jersey with a child requires either the consent of the other parent (it should be written to protect both parties) or a Court Order.
Q: When moving out of state, what rights do custodial parents have?
A: If you intend to relocate, you should discuss your intent with the other party. If you two cannot reach an agreement, then you must file an application with the Court requesting a Court Order allowing you to move.
Q: If a custodial parent wishes to move out of state, what are the non-custodial parent's rights?
After the custodial parent notifies you of their intent to move, if you object, you should immediately file an application with the courts. The court will schedule a hearing, and usually a subsequent trial, so that after considering all evidence and testimony, the Judge can make a determination whether the move would be in the child’s best interest.
Getting Legal Assistance from an Experienced Custody Attorney
If you are considering relocating, here is crucial information: you may not be approved unless you can prove that your plan is in your child's best interests. It is important to remember, however, that no two family situations are the same. Therefore, it is important to consult a custody attorney who understands this and can explain how the law may apply to you and your family.
If you would like to discuss your matter further, call 609-892-8773 to schedule a free 20-minute call with me!