Before marriage, an out of state move was your choice, resulting from factors such as employment, family, and school attendance. But in New Jersey when a parent maintains primary custody of children following a divorce, there are laws to which you must adhere prior to moving out of state. You must obtain permission from you ex spouse or a judge, before relocating outside of New Jersey with you children, pursuant to NJ.S.A. 9:2-2.
It is important for a parent to follow these rules to avoid a criminal charge of parental kidnapping. If the charge is filed, you would be ordered to return the children to New Jersey immediately. The charge is related to the non-custodial parent’s right to parenting time. If that parent has scheduled time with children and the primary custodial parent moves out of state, the parties could not adhere to the agreed upon schedule. Nor could the non-custodial parent be a regular part of the children’s lives.
Before You Commit to Relocation, Research Your Anticipated Move
If relocation is a necessity, you should consider the move carefully. Factors about which your ex or the court will inquire concerning the new residence may include: safety of the neighborhood, schools, proximity of family and support networks. As the parent desiring relocation, you have the burden of providing that your state of relocation is at least as beneficial for your children as their current residence in New Jersey.
Seek Permission From an Ex Spouse Prior to a Move Out of State
The easiest way to approach an impending move is to discuss the situation with your ex spouse, and ultimately, to obtain written permission. Although it may be difficult to make the request, it is necessary and quicker than asking for the court’s permission. Regardless, the decision to move your children out of state is not unilaterally your choice to make when the parties share child custody.
In advance of an impending move, you should discuss details with your ex spouse, including a new parenting time plan (in consideration of further distance between residences), and decide on traveling arrangements outside of New Jersey. You should draft a written agreement detailing the plan, signed by both parties in the presence of an attorney or notary. The new plan would then be incorporated into a modification of your child custody order.
Alternatively, Request Permission From the Court
You will need permission from the court, if your ex refuses to give you permission to relocate with your children. You would be required to file a request to relocate, including details of where you plan to move and a detailed parenting time plan outlining how your children can maintain their relationship and contact with you ex. If you plan to move a great distance, a traditional parenting time scenario would be difficult to maintain, due to school attendance and traveling expense. School vacations may be better spent with your ex, rather than attempting to transport children out of state on weekends during the school year. You should calculate the current annual total of overnights your children spend with your ex and consider maintaining this number when reworking your schedule.
In ruling on your request, the court will consider whether there is a good faith reason for the move and if it is in the best interests of your children. When deciding a relocation issue, the court will apply a list of 12 factors set forth in Baures v. Lewis,167 N.J. 91 (2001), to decide if a proposed move is in children’s best interests, including: your reasons for the move; the reasons your ex opposes the move; the past history of dealings between the parties bearing on these reasons; and other factor’s bearing on the children’s interests. The court will grant permission to move out of New Jersey, if a judge agrees that it will not be harmful to your children to relocate.
Do Not Relocate Without Permission
You must follow the parenting time plan which is in place until a decision is rendered by the court, and avoid disobeying a court order. The court will look unfavorably upon a move prior to obtaining permission and modifying child custody. Such behavior would weigh heavily against obtaining desired court permission for relocation.
If you are considering relocating out of New Jersey with your minor children, contact the Bergen County law offices of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark today to find the answers you need. One of our highly knowledgeable attorneys will be happy to provide you with a cost-free initial consultation.