Divorced Parents New Restrictions To Relocation Within the State of New Jersey
Summary: New developments for divorced parents who want to move to other locations within the State of New Jersey, or the non-custodial parents who oppose the move. The impact of an intra-state move on parenting time.
There has been much litigation around a divorced parent's seeking to remove children from the State of New Jersey. Parents who wish to relocate must obtain either permission from the other party, or they need to get a court order. This used to be easier, but with recent cases, it is not harder for the custodial parent to relocate out of state. However, litigants do not realize that even moving within the state can cause issues. Regardless of the parenting time schedule, when one parent moves their residence, and there is a new distance, it changes the possibilities for parenting time for the other parent.
The Appellate Division has recently issued a published decision; A.J. v R.J. that addresses what they call intra-state relocation. The basis of that decision is that the Court looked to the best interest of the children, similar to the new standard for out of state moves. The court, in Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J 309 (2017) had ruled that relocation far from a parent may have a significant adverse effect on a child, and the court's inquiry must be what is in the best interest of the child, not necessarily what may be in the best interest of the parent. The court found that the lower court would need to address whether the move was in the best interest of the child. The Appellate Division remanded the case to the lower court to conduct a best interest analysis by way of a plenary hearing. The bottom line take away from this case is that if one parent wants to move away from the other, even if it is not out of state, if the other parent opposes the move, then that parent, provided they can show the court that the move would constitute a substantial change of circumstances, affecting the best interest of the children, then that parent may be entitled to a court hearing before the other parent is allowed to move.
The court recognized that whenever there is distance between a parent and the child, there will be consequences to the child. How great those consequences are depends upon the distance and the circumstances of the parties. The more involved in the child's life the non-custodial parent was, the larger the impact on the child when the parent moves away. The objecting parent can request a change of custody. While every case will be determined in large part on the specific facts, this is significant for both the moving parent and the objecting parent.
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