How to handle relocation with a child after divorce in New Jersey

Navigating Child Relocation After Divorce in New Jersey

Divorce can be a challenging ordeal, and when children are involved, the situation often becomes even more complex. For divorced parents in New Jersey looking to relocate with their child, understanding the legal landscape is crucial for a smooth transition. This article provides guidance on the necessary steps and considerations for handling child relocation after divorce in the state of New Jersey.

Understanding New Jersey's Child Relocation Laws

New Jersey statutes require that the parent wishing to relocate with a child must obtain either the consent of the other parent or a court order. This is grounded in the principle that relocation should not disrupt the child's right to maintain a relationship with both parents.

The seminal case on this matter is Baures v. Lewis, which established criteria for courts to consider when deciding relocation cases. However, it's important to note that subsequent decisions, such as Bisbing v. Bisbing, have refined these criteria to ensure that the best interests of the child are always at the forefront of any relocation decision.

Steps to Handle Relocation with a Child Post-Divorce

  1. Review Your Custody Agreement: Before making any plans, review your current custody arrangement. It may contain provisions about relocating with your child.
  2. Notify the Other Parent: If you're planning to move, you must inform the other parent. Written notice is typically required well in advance of your proposed move.
  3. Seek Consent: The simplest way forward is if the non-relocating parent agrees to the move. Their consent should be put into writing and may involve modifying your custody agreement.
  4. Petition the Court: If consent isn't given, you will need to petition the court for permission to relocate. Be prepared to demonstrate how the move is in your child's best interest.
  5. Gather Evidence: Collect evidence supporting why relocating would benefit your child, such as improved living conditions, educational opportunities, or proximity to extended family.
  6. Consider Mediation: If both parties are open to discussion, mediation can be a less adversarial approach to resolving relocation disputes.
  7. Prepare for Court: If mediation fails or isn’t an option, prepare for a court hearing where you'll present your case before a judge.

The Best Interests of the Child

In any relocation case, New Jersey courts will prioritize the best interests of the child. Factors considered include the reasons for the move, potential impact on visitation for the non-relocating parent, and how it affects the child's educational, social, and health needs.

An example illustrating these principles occurred in Bisbing v. Bisbing. Here, the New Jersey Supreme Court emphasized that any initial agreement made at the time of divorce regarding potential future relocation does not carry definitive weight; rather, all decisions must reflect current circumstances and what's best for the child.

Conclusion

Relocating with a child post-divorce in New Jersey requires careful consideration and adherence to legal procedures. By understanding your obligations and preparing thoroughly for each step of the process, you can navigate this complex challenge effectively. Always remember that seeking professional legal advice is crucial in ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and safeguarding your child’s well-being during this significant change.