Moving is a common part of life. Whether you are moving for a fresh start after divorce or getting a new job, it is a significant decision. While this is something you have thought about and are ready to do, you could face some struggles when children and coparenting are involved. New Jersey courts will determine if one parent can relocate or not if the parents can’t come to an agreement. The court will apply the same factors to relocation issues as custody arrangements. Speak to Jersey Coast Family Law about your child custody and relocation concerns.

Child Custody and Relocation In New Jersey

When a parent wants to relocate with the child, the court must approve it. They will review whether the move is in the child’s best interests. The other parent will be given a specific time frame to answer before the matter goes to court. If they do not respond, they forfeit their right to question the move. When submitting a relocation request, parents will need to provide the following:

  • Reason for the relocation
  • A realistic and fair parenting plan
  • Show that the child will have the same or better opportunities in the new location, including:
    • School district
    • Medical providers
    • Clubs
    • Recreational activities
    • Religious groups and organizations, if applicable

Going through the court may be necessary even if the parent has sole custody. One way to get approval for the move is for both parents to agree and sign documentation consenting to the relocation and schedule change. Child custody and relocation go hand in hand. The court’s primary focus is the child’s wellbeing, and you should show the move is positive for them.

In-State Relocation vs Out Of State Relocation

When relocating out of state or within New Jersey, you will need permission from the other parent. The court could be involved if you are moving within the state and the distance causes a significant disturbance with the custody arrangement. New Jersey relocation laws apply to kids born here or who have lived in the state for at least five years. In the 2017 custody case Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled  that the fairest way to decide whether a divorced parent may move out of the state is to apply the same factors used to resolve any custody matter, and the state has viewed the parents’ interest as a secondary issue and put the child first. Previously, they based decisions on whether it would harm the child.

Under the new law changes, even if a decision does not harm the child, that does not mean it is best for the child. Therefore, judges now consider several factors when reviewing relocation requests, such as:

  • Parents’ willingness to accept custody arrangements
  • History of domestic violence
  • Parents’ ability to cooperate in matters related to the child
  • The child’s interactions with parents and siblings
  • Parent’s employment responsibilities
  • The child’s needs
  • Safety of the child and parent from physical abuse
  • Child’s preferences depending on their age
  • Quality and continuation of the child’s education
  • Stability of the home environment
  • Age and number of children
  • Geographical proximity of the parent’s homes
  • Amount of quality time present with the child after the separation

Other factors may be considered by the court when reviewing a relocation request. As you can see, there are many factors to consider involving relocation in or out of state. You might not need court approval if you stay within New Jersey and move a reasonable distance. Moving to the same city would likely not require court involvement. However, moving five hours away could be a concern. Discussing your options with a New Jersey child custody lawyer from our offices is best.

Child Custody, Child Support and Out-of-State Relocation: What Happens

New Jersey child custody has two outcomes. You can either have a joint or sole custody arrangement. Joint custody involves legal and physical custody and outlines the following:

  • The child’s living arrangements, such as with which parent they will live with. This will look different for everyone, depending on the child’s and the parent’s needs.
  • How will the parents make major decisions about the child’s education, health, and overall welfare? If the relocation impedes this communication or involvement, it could be denied.

In sole custody cases, one parent will make all major decisions, but the other will get some parenting time. The court will make the arrangements based on the child’s needs. Two scenarios can happen for out-of-state relocation. If the non-custodial parent agrees, they can sign a documentation of their agreement. It is best to have your New Jersey divorce lawyer review these documents. You may also file a consent motion to change the custody order.

The other scenario is if the non-custodial parent disagrees with the move. This will trigger court proceedings where a judge will determine the outcome. This can hinder your move, and if it is for a job, you might have to postpone agreeing to it. It is best to wait for the court to authorize your move. If you move out of state without permission, you can face legal consequences. You could:

  • Be found in contempt of court
  • Face jail time
  • Pay fines
  • Loss of custody
  • Modification in your custody arrangement
  • Criminal charges for custody interference

If there is no custody agreement, there is a legal assumption that both parents have equal custody rights. Therefore, you could still face interference with custody charges. Having a formal agreement and handling any relocation request through the court is ideal. Non-custodial parents moving out of state could lose visitation rights if they do not use the proper legal channels.

Both Parents Should Meet With a New Jersey Child Custody Lawyer

While you might assume that only one parent should seek legal advice, it is ideal for both parents to consult a New Jersey child custody and family lawyer. If you receive notice that one parent is trying to relocate and want to weigh out your options, you should speak to a family lawyer. Conversely, if you are seeking a relocation, you should know your legal rights and how to prove to the court that the move is in the child’s best interests. Call Jersey Coast Family Law at 732-361-4718 to speak to a New Jersey family lawyer.

Our Toms River and Red Bank offices serve clients throughout New Jersey.


Jersey Coast Family Law
Where Family Comes First