Relocation of Parents and Children
Many times after, or even during, a divorce or legal relationship dissolution, one parent may wish to relocate to another part of New Jersey, or even out of the state of New Jersey itself. This can happen at any time and for a wide variety of reasons.
However, when such a relocation disrupts the lives of the children involved or the feasibility of the existing child custody agreement, this relocation will usually require court approval, without which the parent legally cannot relocate with their children.
If you are a parent wishing to relocate with your children, or a parent whose former spouse is seeking to relocate with your children, it is critical that you retain experienced legal counsel in order to assist you with the many legal forms, court-ordered investigations, and assessments, and the ultimate modification of your child custody and parenting time agreement which will accurately reflect the best interests of both you and your children.
At Jacobs Berger, our family law attorneys have over 45 years of combined experience applying our unique approach to child custody and relocation matters of all kinds throughout New Jersey. This unique approach focuses on finding solutions to legal issues which do not jeopardize the stability of your relationship with your children and all that you have already worked to achieve in your life and helps to set the foundation for a successful legal, financial, and parental future for years to come.
Contact our firm today to discuss your needs or concerns regarding your relocation or the relocation of a co-parent and your children in a confidential Strategic Planning Session.
Relocation of Parents within New Jersey
The laws surrounding how in-state relocations are handled tend to be somewhat vague, unlike out-of-state relocations. As a general rule of thumb, however, if the relocation is within the same general area, and does not cause a great deal of strain on the lives of the children involved and their ability to continue to participate in the existing child custody and parenting time agreement, then that move most likely will not require court approval.
If however, the relocation is far enough such that it makes the existing child custody and parenting time agreement extremely difficult to maintain, either for the parents or the children, then that relocation will most likely require court approval, at which point the courts will perform a “best interest analysis” (outlined below), and modify the existing child custody agreement in accordance with what it believes is in the children’s best interest.
If you are planning to relocate in-state, or your former spouse is planning to relocate to another part of New Jersey, contact our firm to discuss whether or not court approval may be necessary, how to go about requesting approval for your relocation, or how to contest the relocation of your former spouse with your children.
Relocation of Parents Out of New Jersey
In the case that a parent is planning to relocate out-of-state with their children, in a process legally known as “removal”, then that parent will need to submit a request with the courts for approval of said relocation and potential modification of the existing child custody agreement in accordance with the planned changes in circumstance.
Before the courts actually begin the process of modifying the child custody agreement to reflect the out-of-state relocation, however, the relocating parent must first demonstrate that their planned relocation has “good cause”, meaning the relocation is not being requested simply to hurt their former spouse and/or their relationship with the children. While there is not a definitive list of acceptable “good causes”, N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 outlines some of the more commonly accepted good causes as being:
- In order for the parent and/or children to be closer to extended family
- In order for the parent and/or children to receive medical treatment only available in the new location
- In order for the parent and/or children to avoid health risks in the current location
- In order to protect the safety of the parent or children from perceived sources of threat or harm
- In order for the parent and/or children to have better educational opportunities
- In order for the parent to pursue a new employment opportunity which increases their financial circumstances
- In order for the parent to live with a new spouse or partner
If the relocating parent can show good cause for their desire to relocate out-of-state with their children, then the courts will proceed to perform a “best interest analysis”, and based on its results and findings, award one parent or the other primary child custody while seeking to still allow for as much parenting time as possible between the children and whichever parent is not awarded primary custody.
What is a Best Interest Analysis?
Thanks to the recent NJ Supreme Court ruling in Bisbing v Bisbing, all parental relocation requests with the courts will mandate a “best interest analysis”, rather than the old model established in Baures v Lewis wherein the best interests of the children were considered to be whatever was in the best interests of the parent with primary custody.
Best interest analyses are performed in order to determine what exactly is in the best interests of the children during any child custody modification hearing, including child custody modification hearings held as a result of a parental relocation or parental removal request. Outlined in N.J.S.A. 9:4-2, a best interest analysis is an exhaustive investigation performed by the courts including a number of different processes and interviews, and involves the courts taking into consideration a number of different factors (known as the Baures factors) when making their ultimate ruling. However, the amount of weight that each Baures factor is given by the courts depends on the situation at hand, and the ability of each parent’s attorney to sway the court’s opinion on which factors are more important than others.
A best interest analysis and the Baures factors include:
- The stated reasons for the parent’s desire to relocate
- The stated reasons for the other parent to oppose this relocation
- The relationship and history between the parents, and how this relationship may affect their motives and position in the relocation matter
- The opportunities present for the children in either location in terms of education, health, and leisure
- The possibilities of either location for supporting the children’s talents or special needs
- The possibilities for the children to maintain a relationship with the other parent in either location
- How much the court believes both parents will encourage the children to maintain a close relationship with the other parent after the relocation
- The relationship between the children and extended family, and how the requested relocation will affect these relationships
- The possibilities for the non-relocating parent to also relocate to the proposed destination
- The children’s own preferences if the court believes they are of sufficient age and maturity to express them
- Any other factors the court finds relevant to best interests of the children and the relocation request
Upon conclusion of a best interest analysis, the courts will make a final ruling in what they believe are in the children’s best interests, typically appointing one parent or the other as the primary custodial parent with whom the children will live. The existing child custody agreement will be modified to reflect this new arrangement, and parents will be asked to create a plan for continued visitation between the children and the non-custodial parent.
Of course, in any matter so critical to your future as a parent and the future of your children, having experienced legal representation during a relocation request and best interest analysis is highly recommended. Our child custody attorneys can help you ensure that your rights as a parent are properly taken into account by the courts, and that the maintenance of your close relationship with your children and your children’s best interests are closely related, and recognized as such.
Contact Our Relocation Attorneys Today
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience resolving complex child custody issues and parental relocation matters of all throughout New Jersey.
By focusing exclusively on practicing divorce and family law, our firm can provide you with the knowledgeable, effective, and informed legal counsel that you need when it comes to matters affecting your family, and your future as a parent. We aim to find solutions for each of our clients which protect their financial and parental stability, without destroying the relationships and financial security you have already worked so hard to achieve.
If you are considering relocating out-of-state, relocating to a distant part of New Jersey, or are a parent whose former spouse is attempting to relocate with your children, our firm is ready to provide you with our compassionate and effective legal counsel today. Contact our firm to discuss your unique situation, needs, and concerns in a confidential Strategic Planning Session by contacting us online, or calling us through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.