Before you call the movers, find out why it’s now more difficult for divorced parents to relocate from New Jersey with their kids, thanks to a new court ruling that forces parents to prove that out of state long-distance moves are truly in children’s “best interests.”
You’ve landed a great new job, only it’s in Florida. You want to accept and start making relocation plans for you and your kids, but your ex has let you know they are dead set against your plans because it means a radical change to their parenting time schedule.
Can your child’s other parent prevent your move? This may come as disconcerting news to you, but as of August 2017, the answer to this question is much more likely to be yes. As we reported earlier this month, a new New Jersey court ruling can now force divorced parents planning to relocate with their children out of state to cancel those plans should a judge view the long-distance move as not aligning with the children’s “best interests.”
New Standards for Parent Relocation Requests
The new stricter standards for parent relocation requests were issued as part of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling in the matter of Bisbing v. Bisbing. Previously, custodial parents who wished to move from New Jersey to a different state or different country were only required to demonstrate to the courts that the move would not be harmful to the child. If the decision to move was viewed by the courts as made in good faith, the custodial parent’s request was generally approved, even in the face of objections from the non-custodial parent.
Under the new Bisbing rules, all relocation requests received by the courts are now decided by applying more far-reaching “best interests” standards. It is a change viewed as placing custodial and noncustodial parents on more equal footing.
For example, in the past, a custodial parent landing a good job in another state may have been reason enough for the courts to approve the parent’s move with their child. Those days are no longer. If the custodial parent’s relocation will result in the child missing out on regular contact with the noncustodial parent — and the courts view this regular contact as in the child’s best interests — the custodial parent’s relocation request may be denied. [For a case study on the new rules, read: New Bisbing Rules On Parent Relocation Requests: A Case Study]
Making the Case for Best Interests
If you are a custodial parent planning a move, the new standards make it critical for you to carefully consider your options and determine how to make the strongest case possible that relocating is indeed in your child’s best interests. Here are some steps and questions to help guide you through this process:
Try to work it out: Before heading to court, sit down with your child’s other parent and explain your plans and what is prompting you to move, and what you can do to keep the parent’s relationship with your child as strong and stable as possible. Depending on how far away the move is and how it will impact your current parenting time plan, you may want to offer to your child’s other parent a few extra weekends or school vacation weeks that you give up, including summer vacation. If your move will disrupt weekly dinners your child had with their other parent, you can offer alternatives, such as scheduling a set time to Skype during the week.
Make it known to your child’s other parent that you care about their relationship with your child and are committed to helping them maintain it. If your child’s other parent agrees to the move, get it in writing (and any changes to your parenting time schedule). If your child’s other parent agrees to your plans to move, you generally will not need to go to court.
Consider the benefits and drawbacks of moving. You may be planning a move to Maryland because your serious romantic partner lives there. That is personally fulfilling for you, but what will the move mean for practical aspects of your child’s life? How do schools in Maryland compare to those in New Jersey? Will your child be able to take part in their same sports or hobbies? Is there the same access to medical care as where you currently live in New Jersey? Will your child be able to continue in the same religious upbringing if you move? What is your child’s relationship like with your new partner? Does your child have an easy time making new friends? If you will work in your new location, how will this impact time with your child?
Is your child old enough to have a preference? Once your child is mature enough, they may begin to express a distinct preference for which parent they want to spend more time with, or may severely resent having time with their other parent curtailed in any way. How do your plans impact time they spend with their other parent? How flexible are you with agreeing to your child spending long stretches of time (i.e. summer vacation) with their other parent? For long distance moves, will you (and the child’s other parent) be able to financially afford the possible air travel or other costs that your child needs to spend time with their other parent?
Talk to a family law attorney. Working with a family law attorney can help you evaluate your options and understand the most effective way to present your request to the courts. If you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement, your attorney can help ensure the agreement will be legally acceptable and enforceable by the courts. If your move will also necessitate a formal change to your custody plan, a family law attorney can help with any related custody modification issues.
Your Next Move
New jobs, new relationships, and a desire for a new start in life can motivate people to relocate out of New Jersey to live someplace different, and often, someplace very far away. Relocating and starting over may indeed be the best decision for you. But the courts in New Jersey now want you to stop and carefully ask yourself: is this the best decision for your kids?
We can help you understand your options and offer an analysis of how the courts may apply best interests standards in your situation. Are you a non-custodial parent who wants to know what your rights are for keeping your kids close to home? We’re here for you too and can advise you on the best course forward.
For answers to all your questions about moving out of state with your kids, take advantage of the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of our experienced family law attorneys. Contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation, or call today: (888) 888-0919. Take the first steps towards safeguarding your future.