Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at you when you’re not looking. You lay out your plans, chart your course, and align everything in your life to support your path. But what happens when life happens and things change, including where you want to live?
An unexpected move out of state things can get tricky, especially when you are the custodial parent of children whose other parent isn’t a part of these new plans. Even if you’re the primary caretaker of the children and the children live with you most of the time, being a custodial parent means you and your child or children’s other parent share custody. It also means that monumental decisions, such as moving the children you share out of state, can’t be made without the other parent’s knowledge or consent.
So, before anyone starts packing any boxes, the question isn’t how do I move my children out of state, but can I?
New Jersey and divorced parents
In New Jersey, a custodial parent must obtain permission from the non-custodial parent before relocating with their children. In an ideal world, the non-custodial parent would gladly consent to the move, cooperatively adjust the parenting time schedule and maybe even help bubble wrap some vases. But that’s in an ideal world, a world that most of us do not live in.
In the event the non-custodial parent refuses to give consent (which is common), the custodial parent must then petition the court for permission instead. This means that a judge will make the final decision for both of you based on whether relocation would be in the best interest of the children.
What does “best interest of the child” mean?
The obvious next question is – what determines best interest?
Determining what is in the best interest of children in a relocation case has little to do with location or money. For example, relocating may provide the custodial parent with a better job, higher income and a bigger house for the children to live in – but those factors are not at the top of the list for a judge to consider when determining best interest.
What is considered are the children’s:
- Grade levels
- Educational tracks
- Physical and emotional health
- Extra-curricular activities
- Any special needs of the child or children
Most importantly, the judge will also take into consideration the potential impact the move could have on the children’s relationship with their other parent as well as extended family. The court will also examine the relationship between the parents to see if there are any potential ulterior motives on either part for being for or against the move.
In a nutshell, relocation is no easy road to travel unless the non-custodial parent willingly gives consent to move with the children. Otherwise, the custodial parent is facing the road that leads to the courthouse, and that route carries with it not only a financial price tag, but an emotional one as well.
Relocation is a time sensitive issue which only adds extra pressure, so trying to figure out the process alone can be extremely overwhelming, leaving any custodial parent thinking there is no other alternative than to brave the court process. But there are alternatives.
Relocating with your children
If you’re a custodial parent who wants to move with your children and would like to avoid lengthy and costly court proceedings, we can provide you with alternatives that are both cost-effective and non-litigious. Even if your spouse isn’t willing to agree to a move, that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t room for compromise. Sometimes all it takes is an experienced mediator or attorney.
Our qualified attorneys are trained in navigating these alternative options to litigation.
If you want to know what your options are when dealing with relocation, we’re just a phone call away. Let us help you get your plans back on track.