Family Relocation Law: When the Custodial Parent Wants to Move Out of State

Child and Father Hand in Hand

By: Racquel G. Hiben, Esq.

Residents of New Jersey often seek relocation outside of the State to areas with a lower cost of living and a fraction of the property taxes. Others seek relocation to be near family or their support system following a separation or divorce or for a job opportunity. Whatever the reason, when children are involved, the decision cannot be made unilaterally as both parents must consent to the relocation.

Resetting Relocation Law

In the past, if one parent does not consent to the relocation, the New Jersey Supreme Court required the parent with primary custody of the children to merely demonstrate that there is a good faith reason to move and that the relocation is not inimical to the child’s interests.

A reduction in the non-custodial parent’s time with the children was not a reason for a court to deny a request for relocation unless such a change would not allow the noncustodial parent to maintain his or her relationship with the child.

However, the New Jersey Supreme Court has recently toughened the standard for a custodial parent to relocate from New Jersey against the objection of the non-custodial parent. The trial court has to now decide whether there is “cause” to permit a custodial parent to relocate out of the state with the children.

Determining Cause to Relocate with a Child

To determine whether cause exists, the court must conduct a best interest analysis using statutory factors including the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child, the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings, the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity, the needs of the child, the stability of the home environment offered, etc.

In making the best interests analysis, the courts can consider insights from both parents and other adults with close relationships to the children as to the arrangement that will best serve the child, documentary evidence and/or interviews with the children at the court’s discretion. The court may appoint an expert, such as a psychologist, to interview all parties and the children and provide a report and testimony as to the children’s best interests.

Whether you are the parent seeking relocation or the parent opposing the relocation, it is important to understand the standard imposed by the court in making such a life-changing decision for a family. The Family Law attorneys at Gruber, Colabella, Liuzza and Thompson can help you navigate, step by step, through this legal process. Call for a free legal consultation at 973-398-7500.

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