Mobility is often essential for individuals who need to retain employment or move up within the ranks. Unfortunately, this type of upheaval is stressful for everyone in the family. When that family has already been divided due to divorce, however, it can be devastating for the non-moving parent and the children.
Each Denville child custody lawyer at our firm believes that relocation decisions after divorce require careful forethought and planning. If enacted, a bill introduced by the NJ Senate in November 2015 will help to better define the conditions that judges must consider before permitting or denying a parental out-of-state move.
The Proposed Law Spells Out Conditions for Relocation
Under current law, even with parental agreement, the courts must approve the removal of a child out of jurisdiction. The proposed law, called the New Jersey Relocation of Children Act, serves as a supplement that adds extensive detail to the provisions for relocation. In addition to looking at the reasons why a parent wants to move the children out of state, it breaks down the factors used to determine the best interests of the children, such as the following:
- Relationship with both parents: The court considers the closeness of the child’s relationship with both parents, the history of care provided and each parent’s ability to preserve the relationship with the other parent. In fact, the views of children of sufficient maturity are considered by the courts. Naturally, any history of domestic violence or abuse weighs most heavily; however, issues likes these would typically be addressed prior to concerns about relocation.
- Condition of the new location: In addition to providing reasonable living accommodations for the child, the courts also look into the school system while also considering the availability of similar amenities available in the original location. Of course, when children have special needs, appropriate facilities must be available.
- Personal concerns of the children: Depending on the age and temperament of a child, disrupting relationships with extended family members and friends can have a significant effect on the ability to adjust to a new location. A court might look at the plan to ease this adjustment and avoid undue trauma.
- New parenting plan: The court looks closely at proposed time-sharing arrangements. These plans must find ways to maintain the overall time-sharing percentages from the divorce terms — and accomplish this without overwhelming the child or risking safety — while also being affordable and practical for both parents.
In spite of the detail presented in the bill, it provides judges with the latitude to consider any relevant factor that might affect the specific circumstances of any family.
Parents Who Develop New Parenting Plans Can Retain More Control Over Judicial Decisions
While an out-of-state move with the children initially seems to have numerous insurmountable problems, workable solutions are possible when both parents are willing to negotiate. For example, a parent who now sees the children two weekends per month might realize that fewer longer periods actually provides enhanced quality time. Or, if travel costs are at issue for the non-moving parent, perhaps the relocating parent would agree to pay those expenses.
As with divorce, parents have a choice: either work together to resolve issues or enter into courtroom combat, leaving vital decisions in the hands of an impersonal judge. The child custody attorneys at Riordan Family Law believe that a well-developed agreement before going to court creates a plan that is best for the entire family. To find ways to reduce the conflict and work together to develop a solution-focused parenting plan, call us or use our convenient online contact form.