A divorced parent changing a child custody arrangement by moving is not unusual. People often move from state to state, whether for job opportunities, the desire to be closer to family, or just for better weather. However, making the decision to move with children after a divorce can have a drastic impact on a child custody. For this reason, in New Jersey, divorced parents may not leave the state with the children the without the consent of both parents or without a Court Order.
If divorced parents cannot see eye to eye on this issue, which is usually the case, the courts are left to decide whether the child custody arrangement will be modified so as to allow the relocation. The criteria used by the court to make a decision depend on whether one parent is the child’s primary caretaker; or whether there is a shared parenting time arrangement between the parents. The standard used by the court is entirely different depending on the type of custody arrangement in place.
When one parent is the primary caretaker, the court will determine whether the move will be detrimental to the best interest of the child. The court will consider if there are good faith reasons given for the move, the reasons given for the opposition to the move, whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to those available in New Jersey and whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed with the other parent
When divorced parents share both legal and physical custody, the parent seeking to move must demonstrate that the best interest of the child would be better served by physical custody being with the parent seeking to relocate. In this type of application, a court will consider the parents’ ability to communicate with each other, the interaction and relationship of the child with parents and siblings, the safety of the children, geographic proximity and the needs of the child.
In either situation, the parent proposing the move must propose a visitation schedule for parenting time as well as telephonic and/or internet communication. Moving children away from a parent is a serious matter that requires careful legal analysis and representation that considers all of these factors so that a parent is not deprived of the relationship with a child, and so that the child is likewise not deprived of a relationship with a parent.