New Jersey Child Custody Relocation Laws

Relocation with Children After Divorce in New Jersey

Whether you’ve just resolved your divorce in New Jersey or it’s a more distant memory, you might be thinking about starting fresh and moving to a new place. But if you have kids, picking up and relocating requires overcoming a few obstacles.

In the 2017 custody case, Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that the fairest way to decide whether a divorced parent may move out of the state is to apply the same factors used to resolve any custody matter. These factors are based on the best interests of the child.

How easily one parent is able to move out of state depends on the parents’ starting point regarding the original custody agreement. All custody cases in New Jersey result in either joint custody or sole custody. Joint custody incorporates legal custody or physical custody and includes:

  • Living arrangements so that the child resides either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent. This arrangement depends on the needs of the child and the parents.
  • The need for the parents to consult in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and general welfare.

New Jersey courts may also award sole custody to one parent. The other parent, called the “noncustodial parent,” often still gets some parenting time with the child. The court decides all arrangements based on the best interests of the child.

New Jersey law requires permission either from the other parent or through court approval if a parent wants to move a child to another state, or far enough across the state to cause a problem with the current custody agreement. This applies to children who were born in New Jersey or have lived in the state for at least five years.

How the Court Determines the Child’s Best Interest

Determining a child’s best interest when a parent wants to relocate uses the same factors in any New Jersey custody case. These include the:

  • Parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child.
  • Parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse.
  • Interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings.
  • History of domestic violence, if any; the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.
  • Preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision.
  • Needs of the child; the stability of the home environment offered.
  • Quality and continuity of the child’s education.
  • Fitness of the parents.
  • Geographical proximity of the parents’ homes.
  • Extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation.
  • Parents’ employment responsibilities; and the age and number of the children.

If there’s a parenting plan following the original custody order and the parent’s relocation would disrupt the plan, that parent will need permission before moving.

Asking the Court to Move

Both parents can reach an agreement and sign a consent order showing they agree to the relocation and any applicable custody schedule changes it requires, or the parent who wishes to relocate can file paperwork with the local superior court to have the court approve the move. The other parent then has a limited time to respond. If the other parent does not respond within this time period, he or she forfeits the chance to do so.

In addition to stating the reason they want to move, parents wishing to relocate must submit a realistic and fair parenting plan proposal, and show the court that the child has comparable or better opportunities in the new area as there is in their current home. These opportunities often include:

  • Medical care providers
  • School districts
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Boy/Girl Scouts or other clubs
  • Church youth group activities, if religious

This is true even when a parent has sole custody of a child, although it is typically easier to have this type of move approved by the courts. Custodial parents hoping to relocate must show they are doing so in good faith, and that the move is a positive one for the child.

Any custody and relocation situation is complex. If you’re thinking about moving, or your child’s other parent has expressed a desire to move, act now. Contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC, for assistance. We’ll explain your rights and your child’s rights as well as the next steps toward achieving the best solution possible.