An increasing number of children are living with one custodial parent while the other parent lives in a separate home. While child custody and visitation agreements vary, typically the parents share joint legal custody, with residential custody vested in one parent.
Quite often, the parent with residential custody will decide to move out of New Jersey, either for personal reasons or for economic reasons. Under New Jersey law, the primary residential caregiver cannot move out of the state without the consent of the non-custodial parent, or a court order. N.J.S.A. 9:2-2
The purpose of the law is to protect the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent and because it is in the best interest of the child to maintain visitation with both parents.
When a move is proposed, the best route is to negotiate an agreement between the parents. If the parents reach an agreement, it is best to memorialize the agreement in writing, and preferably in a formal agreement with the benefit of legal counsel. If the parents cannot agree, then the custodial parent must seek a court order prior to moving.
If the non-custodial parent objects to a move, then the custodial parent, acting through an attorney files a motion with the court. Many times the court will hold a full hearing in court prior to making its decision. The court will consider many factors including the reasons for the move, the effect that the move will have on visitation, and when appropriate, the wishes of the children.
The parent seeking to move must obtain the court order before leaving. It is unwise to move first, and seek a court order second. If there is a legitimate need to move quickly, then the court may take the case on an expedited basis. If the custodial parent does not first seek a court order, then he or she risks criminal sanctions for interference with custody.
Howes & Howes has successfully handled many contested cases in which the custodial parent seeks to move out of New Jersey. If you or your ex-spouse are contemplating such a move, then you should contact Howes & Howes.