Tessa focuses her practice on all aspects of family law, including divorce, equitable distribution, child and spousal support, custody, mediation, and domestic abuse in the greater Mount Laurel, NJ area. Tessa believes...Read More by Author
Relocating out of the state of New Jersey – The Dos and Don’ts
There are numerous reasons why a parent may desire to move from the state of New Jersey. Most often the move is job-related, but a parent may move for a romantic partner, to be closer to family or friends, for better schools or services for the child, or just for a life and scenery change. Despite good intentions, relocations from New Jersey are difficult as they often impact the other parent’s time and involvement in the child’s life. It is important to know the process and set up your relocation case for success.
New Jersey statute, specifically N.J.S.A. 9:2-2, requires that a parent must obtain either consent of the other parent or a Court Order to relocate out of the state with a child.
In other words, if you are seeking to remove your child from New Jersey and your co-parent objects, you must first apply to the Court to obtain an Order permitting the relocation. In Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309, 313 (2017), the Supreme Court held that in all interstate relocation disputes in which the parents share legal custody—including cases in which one parent is designated as the parent of primary residence and the other is designated as the parent of alternate residence—“the trial court should decide whether there is ‘cause’ under N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 to authorize a child’s relocation out of state by weighing the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4, and other relevant considerations, and determining whether the relocation is in the child’s best interests.”
N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 is the statute that prescribes the best interests factors a Court must consider in granting a relocation application. The best interest factors consist of the following:
- The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
- The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
- The interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
- The history of domestic violence, if any;
- The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
- The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
- The needs of the child;
- The stability of the home environment offered;
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education;
- The fitness of the parents;
- The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
- The extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
- The parents’ employment responsibilities; and
- The age and number of the children.
N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 further directs “that it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing in order to effect this policy.”
Relocation applications are notoriously difficult depending on the distance you are intending to move and your status quo parenting time arrangement, as it is often unavoidable that the other parent’s time will be limited. As it is the Court’s goal to achieve frequent and continuing contact with both parents, you will have to provide a strong basis for the move and that you are able to maintain the other parent’s relationship with the child. The impact on the other parent’s parenting time and access to the child will have to be weighed against the benefits to the child by the move. Below are some Dos and Don’ts if you are considering relocating out of state with your child.
DO your research.
As the focus is on the child and maintaining time with the other parent, you will need to know the strengths of the community, school, and services. If your move is work-related or financially based, you will need to show that the job market is superior for your field, weighing any increase in income against the cost of living and detail how that financial change will benefit the child’s overall wellbeing. You will also need to know information about travel to facilitate parenting time, including available travel methods, commute times, and costs.
DO communicate your intentions to your co-parent and gauge their position.
You may curtail this based on any history of domestic violence or abuse. However, if your co-parenting relationship has been relatively amicable, it is always best to attempt to resolve relocation with your co-parent first. Judges will also view this attempt favorably.
DO be flexible.
If you are moving several hours away, it will not be possible to follow a schedule that rotates every other weekend. Parenting time will be made up during the summer months, school breaks, and holidays. Be prepared to make these concessions and come up with a creative solution to facilitate parenting time.
DO consult with an attorney.
You may wish to have an attorney first attempt to settle the matter with the other side. It is also important to know the process. In the event the other side objects and there is a dispute with respect to the child’s best interests, the Court will schedule your matter for a trial to take testimony from the parties. You may also need to involve a custody expert depending on the facts of your case. An attorney will explain this process to you, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your relocation from the Court’s perspective.
DO NOT engage in self-help.
There is one big DO NOT and that is DO NOT engage in self-help. In other words, do not relocate until you have consent or the Court’s permission. As there is a clear statute prohibiting relocation, this form of self-help is strongly looked down upon by judges. It may result in an immediate transfer of custody to the other parent depending on the circumstances. It will also damage the strength of your relocation application, as it will be viewed in the context of your ability to co-parent and may damage your credibility.
Obermayer Family Law Attorneys are experienced in both pursuing and opposing relocation applications. If you are considering relocating out-of-state, or if your co-parent intends to relocate out-of-state, set up a consultation today.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.