NJ Child Custody and Removal Attorneys
New Jersey law prohibits removal or relocation of minor children who have lived in the state for at least five years without the consent of both parents, “unless the court, upon cause shown, shall otherwise order.” Thus, the law is designed to preserve the rights of noncustodial parents while also allowing appropriate flexibility for custodial parents to make changes in their lives. At Romanowski Law Offices, our lawyers have significant experience helping parents pursue and fight petitions for relocation.
Relocating a Child From New Jersey When You Have Primary Custody
In order to relocate, a custodial parent must be able to show both that:
- There is a good-faith reason for the move; and,
- The move will not be harmful to the child’s interests.
In the petition to relocate, the custodial parent should also include a proposed visitation schedule. The New Jersey Supreme Court has said that the proposed visitation schedule does not need to be identical to the current one if the benefits of the move justify an alternate arrangement.
As the custodial parent, if you are able to meet these requirements, then the burden shifts to the non-custodial parent to produce evidence of a countervailing reason why the judge should deny your petition for relocation. If you have met your burden and the non-custodial parent does not respond, your petition will likely be granted. However, if the non-custodial parent files an opposition, the court will consider the evidence and weigh the following factors in deciding whether to permit the move:
- The reasons given for the move
- The reasons given for the opposition
- The parties’ history insofar as it bears on their respective reasons for seeking and opposing the move
- Whether the child will receive educational, health, and leisure opportunities at least equal to those available at his or her current home
- Any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation, and whether equivalent accommodations are available in the new location
- Whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child
- The likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent if the move is allowed
- The effect of the move on extended family relationships in both locations
- If the child is of age, his or her preference
- Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school, at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent
- Whether the non-custodial parent has the ability to relocate
- Any other factors relevant to the best interests of the child
Importantly, in relocation cases, the courts focus not only on the interests of the child, but on the parents’ interests as well. This is different from an ordinary custody dispute, where the courts focus solely on the best interests of the child. Under the “hybrid scheme” established in Baures v. Lewis, courts in relocation cases will weigh the custodial parent’s right to seek happiness and fulfillment against the non-custodial parent’s interest in maintaining regular communication and contact in order to sustain a meaningful relationship with their child.
As with the initial determination of custody and visitation rights, the courts in New Jersey favor enforcing arrangements based on mutual agreement of the parents. At Romanowski Law Offices, we can help you use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods to work out a relocation and visitation plan. If that is not an option, we can take your petition to court and help you fight for the right to relocate out of state with your child.
Opposing Petitions for Relocation or Removal
Our attorneys have helped numerous non-custodial parents prevent custodial parents from moving away from New Jersey with their children. In these situations, it is critical to establish the nature of the parents’ current arrangement.
If there is truly one custodial parent and one non-custodial parent, then the analysis discussed above would apply. However, in situations involving shared custody, the courts treat relocation requests essentially as motions to change custody. In these cases, the courts apply a different set of factors that focus exclusively on the best interests of the child. While custodial rights are often clear, in some cases making this determination is a critical first step toward establishing grounds for preventing relocation. We have handled numerous cases involving custody battles and relocation disputes and can help you fight to protect your parental rights.
Contact Romanowski Law Offices to Discuss Your Child’s Relocation
The New Jersey family law attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices provide experienced representation for cases involving removal and relocation. To discuss your situation with one of our attorneys, call (732) 603-8585 or contact us online today.