Life brings us surprises every day. You may get divorced, and agree on a marital settlement agreement thinking you have full knowledge and control over the future. But then something happens, and you find that you need to relocate a significant distance from where you are living now. How are relocations handled after divorce when kids are involved?
The Burden of Relocation
A parent seeking to relocate with the kids has a high burden, given that the relocation will adversely affect the other non-relocating parent. The relocating parent must show that the relocation better serves the child’s interest. This tacitly means that what is important is not why you need to relocate, but rather, what effect the relocation will have on the child.
Additionally, it is not enough to show the relocation will not affect the child or that it will not harm the child—it must be a showing that the relocation serves the child in a better way, or makes the child’s life appreciably better.
This standard applies to any child who was born in New Jersey, or to any child that has lived in New Jersey for five years.
Factors a Court Will Consider
In deciding whether to grant a parents request to relocate with a child, New Jersey courts will look to:
- How well do the parents communicate? Relocation takes communication and a willingness for parents to cooperate. The better the relationship is, the more likely it is that a judge will be OK allowing a parent to relocate with a child.
- The preference of the child, although this depends on the maturity and age of the child
- The child’s needs and whether the parents have the ability, financially and emotionally, to cooperate and allow the child to see the other parent.
- The continuity and quality of the child’s education after the move
- Any domestic violence between the parents
You will notice one factor is absent: Who has the kids, and for how long. That is because the standard is the same, regardless of whether the parent seeking to move with the children has the children 20%, 50% or 90% of the time. Courts can consider the timesharing but it cannot be the determining factor.
How Far is Too Far?
How far you can move without needing permission is an open question. Certainly, if you have an existing marital settlement agreement or court order that has specific geographic or distance restrictions, you will need the court’s permission to move.
Moving in-state is a little easier, but any move that imposes an undue burden on the other parent, or which would alter an existing custody schedule, would need permission. After all, even if you would legally be allowed to move anywhere in-state, if the move is so far that your current custody/visitation schedule is impossible to fulfill, the court may change your custody arrangements.
Contact our New Jersey Divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC to help you if you need to modify or alter an existing divorce agreement or judgment.