Many people seeking a fresh start after divorce consider the idea of moving. The benefits of moving include being closer to family, having more career options, and living in a new setting without painful memories. You may also be forced to move because the divorce agreement stipulates that the marital home will be sold. If, however, you have a custody agreement in place, you must obtain permission before moving out of state with children who were born in, or have lived in New Jersey for at least five years. You should start by asking permission from the other parent, who will need to sign a consent order to show his or her agreement to the move. If the other parent refuses, you can appeal to the superior court by filing a motion for relocation. What you will need to provide the court depends on the existing custody agreement. If you have sole physical custody, you will need to show that the proposed move is in "good faith". This means that you want to move for reasons that will benefit both you and your child, and not because you want to interfere with the other parent's custodial rights. A common example of a good faith move is when a parent receives a work promotion which will require her to move to another state.
In addition to having a good reason, you must provide evidence that your child will have access to opportunities that are comparable to what is available in your current location. These opportunities include education, healthcare, recreational activities and child care arrangements. Most importantly, you must come up with a feasible parenting plan that will cause the least amount of disturbance to the other parent's parental rights. This plan can include alternate visitation arrangements, such as allowing the other parent to have the child for longer stretches of time during vacation months. You will also need to include details on how your child can maintain constant contact with the other parent. Most plans, for example, allow the child and parent unlimited contact via phone calls, texts and video chats.
Things become more complicated if you have joint physical custody. This type of agreement gives each parent equal or close to equal parenting time, such as having the child stay with one parent Monday to Thursday, then with the other parent from Friday to Sunday. In this case, allowing the move requires a legal modification of the existing custody agreement, which you and your spouse should try to negotiate privately with help from lawyers. If you cannot come to an agreement, you will need to request a court hearing to determine which parent should be the primary physical custodian.
If you plan on moving during or after your divorce, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our lawyers will be happy to advise you of your rights and legal obligations during a free initial consultation.