Understanding New Jersey Child Custody and Relocation Policies

According to latest census data, over 11 percent of the U.S. population moved between 2010 and 2011. Most stayed within the same county and state. However, sometimes circumstances necessitate relocating to a different state – and this can complicate child custody and parenting time arrangements.

Like other states, New Jersey child custody focuses on the best interests of the child and advocate that the well-being of the child is the primary priority. Removal/relocation cases are highly fact sensitive. The court usually considers how an out-of-state move might affect the child, including but not limited to an analysis of:

  • Relationship with the other parent
  • Relationships with extended family members
  • Educational opportunities
  • Special accommodations or health needs
  • Preferences of the child

A parent with primary physical custody should be prepared to show that the proposed move is motivated by genuine economic opportunity and career advancement – not by any desire to limit the rights of the noncustodial parent. If the child will have similar or improved opportunities in the new location and frequent, meaningful contact with the noncustodial parent can be arranged, the court may grant permission for the move.

If parents have joint custody and one plans to move out of state, the court may award primary physical custody to the parent who offers the best environment for the child. Parenting time with the other parent would then need to be worked out.

It is essential, however, that parents recognize that relocation/removal is not limited to an out-of-state move. If one parent wishes to move with the child within the State of New Jersey, this move could constitute a change of circumstances which the Court may consider a change in custody. The Court would need to review the custody and parenting time and changes in the parties’ arrangements could be ordered.

It is important for all parents to know that taking a child out of state without the permission of the other parent or the court, even if no custody orders are in place, is a serious issue. In some situations, it may be considered an offense that may carry criminal charges. If you find yourself in a situation where you or your co-parent are considering relocation, contact us for advice on how best to proceed.

For more information, or to talk about your child custody relocation options with one of our licensed and experienced New Jersey matrimonial law attorneys, give our office a call at 973-718-7705.

About the Author:

Sarah Jacobs is dedicated to protecting the interests of clients in family law proceedings. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and Qualified as a Mediator, Sarah possesses nearly 20 years of experience practicing law throughout the State of New Jersey. Together with partner Jamie N. Berger, Esq. their boutique Morristown family law firm is managed with the goal of providing high-quality service tailored to each client's individual needs. In her capacity as both a family law mediator and litigator, Sarah works with negotiation-minded clients in a cooperative setting. She is also a skilled litigator with the knowledge needed to take even the most complex cases to court, if necessary.

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