There are many reasons why a parent who has sole or joint physical custody of a child may want to move out of state after a divorce. The parent may need to move because their employer requires that they move. There may be better business opportunities in another state. A parent may become involved in a new relationship and the new partner lives in another state or another part of New Jersey. A parent may consider moving with a child after a divorce is granted because they want a change of scenery. Relocating with a child after divorce may be necessary because a grandparent of the child is ill and needs someone to care for them.
A modified custody agreement authorizing moving with a child after divorce
As a general rule, a parent who considers moving out of state after a divorce should seek authority to move in one of two ways – by agreement or by court order.
The best way to obtain legal authority to move with your child is by entering into an agreement with your spouse after consultation with your family law attorney. The agreement should specify:
- Which parents will have legal custody?
- That you have physical custody or that both parents will have shared physical custody
- When and where the child will stay with the other parent
- How the transfer of the child will be arranged and who has the responsibility for the transfer
- How disputes about the child custody agreement will be resolved
- When and how the child will communicate with the other parent when the child is with you – and vice-versa
A court order authorizing moving out of state after divorce with a child
If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement about child custody when you are moving with a child after divorce, then you will need to present your case before a family court judge. The family judge will review many different factors including:
- Examining if the move is legitimate. Relocating with a child after divorce will likely be considered legitimate if the move is due to employment, a new relationship, or for your health or the health of a loved one. Moving just because you need a change of scenery will likely not be considered legitimate because the move affects your ex-spouse’s ability to bond with his/her child.
- Examining the effect on your child. Children need stability after a divorce. Family courts generally prefer that children stay in the same home and attend the same school. Children should be able to keep the same friends. Your ex-spouse will have the right to ask that the court consider the physical, mental, and emotional health of your child and the best interests of the child.
Once you show a legitimate reason for the move and that your child’s best interests are a priority, the burden shifts to the other parent to show why the move should not be granted.
Factors a New Jersey family court considers when moving with a child after divorce
The family court judge will review the following issues in addition to the reason for the move:
- The reason your ex-spouse opposes the move
- The prior history of the parents regarding the custody of the child and your relationship with your ex-spouse
- The living arrangements of the child in the new location
- The education the child will receive in the new location
- Any health issues of the child that may impact the custody and visitation decisions
- The social, cultural, and recreational opportunities in the new location
- Whether your child has any special needs or any special abilities – and how the move may impact those needs and abilities
- The ability of the parent staying in New Jersey to develop a strong continuing relationship with his /her child
- The determination of the parent who moves to ensure the child bonds with the non-moving parent
- How the move affects relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives
- The child’s age – older children’s considerations may be considered by the family court judge
- Whether the child is or will soon be a senior in high school – which suggests the child shouldn’t move
- All other relevant factors
The family court will generally balance both the needs and wishes of the parents and the needs and best interests of the children. Generally, moving with a child after divorce is more likely to be granted if a parent with sole physical custody wants to move. If custody is shared/joint, the court will be more questioning of the move.
At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, our custody and divorce lawyers understand that moving with a child after divorce is a necessary part of life. We work to negotiate amicable agreements. We assert our client’s rights if the move is contested by a non-moving spouse. To talk with a strong advocate, call us at 908-691-2104 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Morristown.