Child Relocation within the State of NJ

When divorced parents have joint custody of a child, the location of each parent’s residence is important. It is usually ideal for both parents to live in the same city or general area, in order to facilitate the children living with each parent and commuting back and forth, though custody agreements can work successfully with the parents living geographically further apart. Questions arise, however, when one of the parents decides to move. Can the other parent force the moving parent to stay? If one parent moves far away, can the other parent get full custody of the child?

If one parent with residential custody of a child decides to move outside the State of New Jersey, under New Jersey law (N.J.S.A. 9:2-2) that parent needs either the permission of the other parent or a court order. However, New Jersey state law does not have a statute on the subject of moving within the State of New Jersey, so we must look to relevant case law to determine how to handle an intrastate move by a parent.

New Jersey Intrastate Child Relocation Case Law

In the case of Schulze v. Morris, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that the New Jersey statute discussed above does not apply to moves within the state, and thus relocation within New Jersey does not require court approval. It further held that relocation may be a “substantial change in circumstances warranting modification of the custodial and parenting-time arrangement.”

If such a “substantial change” is found, the Appellate Division directs the courts to look at the factors laid out in a leading case on relocations outside of New Jersey, called Baures v. Lewis, to determine if such a relocation is permissible.

Baures Factors

The Baures case gives us the factors listed below to help determine whether the move is permissible. The court stated that not all factors may be relevant for every case and need not be given equal weight.

  • The reasons given for the move;  
  • The reasons given for the opposition;  
  • The past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it bears on the reasons advanced by both parties for supporting and opposing the move;  
  • Whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here;  
  • Any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation and whether such accommodation or its equivalent is available in the new location;  
  • Whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the  noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child;  
  • The likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child's relationship with the noncustodial parent if the move is allowed;  
  • The effect of the move on extended family relationships here and in the new location;  
  • If the child is of age, his or her preference;
  • Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent;  
  • Whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate;  
  • Any other factor bearing on the child's interest.

The relocation of a child within the State of New Jersey is not an entirely settled area of law because it is difficult to know when a move is a “substantial change” that warrants judicial review. If you or your co-parent is looking to move within the State of New Jersey, it is important to speak with an attorney to discuss your case. Please call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.

Sources

Schulze v. Morris , 361 N.J. Super. 419 (App. Div. 2003)
Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91, 770 A.2d 214 (2001)
N.J.S.A. 9:2-2

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