Parental Relocation

Some of the most difficult cases in family law involve those wherein the custodial parent decides to leave the State of New Jersey with his or her children. The non-custodial parent is suddenly faced with a situation that may significantly changer his or her contact and relationship with the children. Ultimately, the court is put in a very difficult situation wherein it must decide whether to let the custodial parent leave with the children or to not permit that parent to leave so that the non-custodial parent’s relationship remains unchanged.

According to New Jersey statute, the “minor children of parents divorced, separated or living separate . . . shall not be removed out of its jurisdiction . . . without the consent of both parents, unless the court, upon cause shown, shall otherwise order.” Therefore, before a custodial parent relocates out of New Jersey with one or more children, he/she must gain the consent of the non-custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent objects to the relocation, the custodial parent must make the appropriate application with the court and convince the court that they should be able to relocate with the children over the non-custodial parent’s objection.

In the recent landmark decision of Bisbing v. Bisbing, the Supreme Court held that courts should conduct a best interests analysis to determine “cause” under N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 in all contested relocation disputes in which the parents share legal custody—whether the custody arrangement designates a parent of primary residence and a parent of alternate residence, or provides for equally shared custody.  This decision overturned prior case law and standards used by the Court.   The court will ultimately have to determine whether it is in the best interests of the child to go with the parent moving out of state or to remain in New Jersey with the parent remaining here.

Ultimately, the court will make a determination as to whether the custodial parent can relocate with the children. If the custodial parent is permitted to leave with the children, the court will enter a new visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. If the custodial parent’s request to relocate is denied, he or she may still move, but may not do so with the children.

If you are considering relocating out of New Jersey with your children, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately. These types of cases can take as long as six months before the court makes a decision. Therefore, if time is an issue in your matter, it is important to start your case immediately. If you are a non-custodial parent and the custodial parent of your children has filed an application for relocation, it is equally important that you contact an attorney right away so that you can begin to prepare a legal strategy for opposing the application. At Donahue, Hagan, Klein & Weisberg, LLC, we have extensive experience in handling both sides of relocations matters. We will do our best to make sure that your position, whether it is for relocation or against, is presented and argued before the court with all of the care and passion that it deserves.

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