Many spouses, after a divorce, begin to think about the next phase of their lives. Parents will often enter into physical and custody orders for their children with detailed parenting plans – only for one parent to decide he/she wants to move. The move may be to the next county, to a completely different part of New Jersey, or to another state.
Parents may want to move because of employment opportunities or because of a relationship with a new person in their lives. Some ex-spouses decide that they just want a fresh start. There’s nothing wrong with a parent moving. The problem is how will the move affect the children. There already is a current order for legal and physical custody in New Jersey. That order can only be modified if the parents agree or if the court authorizes a relocation order [in] family court.
What are the basic types of custody orders in New Jersey?
New Jersey’s policy in all custody cases is, according to state law: “to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing in order to effect this policy.”
In any proceeding involving the custody of a minor child, the rights of both parents shall be equal and the court shall enter an order which may include:
- “Joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include: (1) provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child; and (2) provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare;”
- “Sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent; or”
- “Any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.”
What are the core issues in requesting a modification of a current family court custody order?
The issues are:
- What are the rights of the moving parent to obtain a relocation order [in] family court? The moving parent usually wants to have joint physical and legal custody – but wants to change the parenting plan. If the parent wants to take the child with him/her, the parent will normally seek an order to have physical custody of the child during the school year while the non-moving parent has custody during the summer, vacations, and holidays. The long distances (whether to a different state or within New Jersey) make it more difficult to exchange the child on weekends or during any one week.
- What are the rights of the non-moving parent to contest obtaining a relocation order [in] family court? The parent who is not moving has several concerns:
- The relocation order [in] family court should be enforceable in both New Jersey and the state where the other parent is moving too.
- The move directly affects when and how often the nonmoving parent can spend time with the child – especially if the moving parent wants legal custody during the school year.
- What are the rights of the child to contest the entry of a relocation order [in] family court? Normally, younger children don’t have any say in the move. Older children are likely to want to stay in their current school and near their current friends.
How family court relocations are handled in New Jersey
It used to be the law in New Jersey that the moving parent could obtain a relocation order if the moving parent could:
- Justify the move
- Show that the move wouldn’t adversely affect the child(ren)
New Jersey, after a Supreme Court case, changed the requirements for obtaining a relocation order [in] family court? As of 2017, New Jersey makes it more difficult to obtain a family court relocation order. The request for a relocation order [in] family court will be examined as if the request for custody was starting over fresh. This means the family court will examine all the core criteria for physical and legal custody that are used in an original request for custody.
New Jersey law also provides that children can’t be removed out of New Jersey without their consent if “such children are natives of this State, or have resided five years within its limits, they shall not be removed out of its jurisdiction against their own consent, if of suitable age to signify the same, nor while under that age without the consent of both parents, unless the court, upon cause shown, shall otherwise order.”
At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, our relocation order [in] family court lawyers represent parents who want to relocate to another state or another part of New Jersey, parents who want to contest the request for a relocation order, and older children who wish to contest a change in a custody order involving a relocation. To speak with a respected family lawyer who is experienced with family court relocations, call us at 908-691-2104 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Florham Park.