As any divorced parent knows, the act of “moving on” after divorce is complicated in both the physical and mental sense. Of course, former spouses typically do move into separate residences, but most live within a reasonable distance from each other in order to facilitate the custody and visitation agreement. If the parent with primary custody wishes to move out of state, he or she must receive permission from the other parent or the courts. This law ensures that the move is in the best interests of the children, as well as the parent, and that the move is not a deliberate attempt to alienate the children from the other parent. For this reason, the applicant would need to convince the courts that the move is in “good faith”.
Permission is also needed in the case of long distance moves within New Jersey, although there are no specific parameters for how far is “too far”. While New Jersey is small compared to states like Texas and California, driving from one end of the state to the other takes about three and a half hours, not accounting for traffic. As a result, the law also allows non-custodial parents to contest a move if it's far enough to require significant changes to the current parenting plan. For example, if your spouse wants to move from South Jersey to North Jersey, this may greatly interfere with your ability to have the kids for overnight visits. It may also cause you to miss out on special moments such as attending your children's games or recitals.
Your ex, on the other hand, probably has a compelling reason for the move, such as a new job or the opportunity to put your kids in a better school district. He or she may argue that you can continue to be involved in your children's lives through daily phone calls, instant messaging or video chat. This is actually an argument that the courts take seriously, because nowadays, just about everybody has a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet. This makes it possible for parents to have face-to-face conversations with their children at any time via apps such as Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp. Changes to the visitation schedule, such as giving you bigger blocks of overnight visits during the children's vacations, may be offered as well. Overall, the courts will need to consider the pros and cons of moving your children to this new location, and whether the intentions of the original parenting plan can still be honored.
Deciding on the best course of action for you and your children depends on numerous factors, including your children's needs, and the ability to make fair and practical changes to the existing parenting plan. Thus, it's important to discuss your personal circumstances with a family law attorney who can advise you on your rights and legal options. Please consider speaking with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca P.C. during a free initial consultation.