Our world is constantly changing, and as a result, people live much different lives today than they did even twenty or thirty years ago. More and more parents are relocating out of state for many reasons: family, employment, and schooling. But, what if you have custody of your children? Does that give you free reign to move out of New Jersey with the kids? Contrary to popular belief, having custody of your child, even sole custody, does not automatically guarantee you the ability to move to a new state. There are certain laws that you must follow to ensure that you are not subjecting yourself to a possible parental kidnapping charge here in New Jersey.
That may sound extreme: a kidnapping charge? How can I kidnap my own kids? The issue lies with your children’s other parent, and their right to parenting time with the kids. For example, if a non-custodial parent sees the children every other Friday evening to Sunday evening and every Wednesday for dinner, and the custodial parent moves to Louisiana, it would be impossible to keep this schedule. How can the non-custodial parent make sure that they see their children and participate in their lives regularly?
The easiest way to effectuate your planned move to a new state is to get permission from your ex. This permission should absolutely be in writing and you should, without question, sit down with your ex, well in advance of your planned move, to work out details such as a new parenting schedule and how the children will travel to and from New Jersey going forward. Make sure all details are in writing, and signed by the both of you, in the presence of an attorney or notary.
If you ex refuses to give permission to relocate with the children, you will have to get permission from the court. You would file a request to relocate with the court and you must provide not only details about where you are planning to move (such as information regarding schools, medical professionals and crime rates) but you must also provide a detailed parenting time plan to the court, outlining how you propose the children maintain contact and a relationship with their other parent.
Of course, the further you are moving, the more difficult it will be to have a more traditional parenting time plan. You may need to consider having the children spend the entire summer break with their other parent, and perhaps all school vacations as well. Sit down and calculate how may overnights your kids spend with their other parent and try to come up with a plan that affords the same amount of time (or at least as close to the same amount as possible) when you move. You may also want to offer to shoulder the cost of transporting the children back and forth from New Jersey to your new state.
Overall, the court will look at what is in the best interests of your children. The court will apply the Baures factors: factors that the court must consider when deciding a relocation matter. These factors are found in the Baures v. Lewis case, and they help the court in deciding whether or not the move is in your child’s best interests. The factors include such considerations as your reason for the move, the reason why your ex opposes the move, whether your decision to move is in good faith and the past history of your dealings with your ex.
If, after your court hearing, the judge agrees that it will not be harmful to your child to relocate, you will be granted permission by the court to move out of New Jersey. It is extremely important that you follow whatever parenting time plan has been put in place. You certainly do not want to be seen as disobeying a court order. Doing so may subject you to further legal action here in New Jersey. Further, you should not consider moving from New Jersey with the children without permission from your ex or the court. Not only will the family court order the children be immediately returned to New Jersey, you are subjecting yourself to possible criminal kidnapping charges.
If you are considering a move out of the state of New Jersey with your children and you are unsure how to go about formulating a plan, speak to a family law attorney who is experienced in handling relocation matters here in the Garden State.