If One Parent Wants to Move, How Does That Impact Child Custody?
People move for a variety of different reasons and it is not uncommon for a family to live in several places before a child becomes an adult. But, moving often becomes much more complex when parents are divorced. Sometimes, a parent with physical custody wants to move but the non-custodial parent objects for fear of losing contact with the child.
Like most custody issues, relocation issues are normally worked out between the parents. If the custodial parent moves a long distance, instead of seeing a child at night and on weekends, the non-custodial parent may see a child on holidays and during the summer. If arrangements cannot be amicably made the issue will be decided by a court. One recent example is a relocation issue that made it all the way up to the New Jersey State courts’ Appellate Division.
The scenario is not unusual for New Jersey residents. The custodial parent of a 10-year-old wanted to move south (to Atlanta) for greater job prospects and a lower cost of living. She stated her part-time salary, child custody and spousal support payments were not enough for her to continue to live in Bergen County and that she lost her home in foreclosure as a result. The non-custodial parent, a Bergen County police officer, claimed that the move would be too disruptive to his relationship with his ten-year-old daughter and her relationship with his extended family. Because the child was a New Jersey native, under state law, her mother needed court approval to relocate outside state. This rule exists in order to preserve the post divorce relationship of the child and non-custodial parent.
The appeals court upheld a lower court decision that found in the father’s favor stating that the move was not in the daughter’s best interests. The court based its decision on the following:
• Though the father works the second shift, he has stayed active in his daughter’s life, is involved in her school, takes time off to watch her play sports and goes out to breakfast and lunch with her when possible.
• He lives in a one-bedroom apartment so the two spend “significant amounts of time” at his mother’s and sister’s homes so the girl has become “extremely close” with her cousins.
The appeals court found that in the lower court “the judge’s conclusion that the potential benefits of the move were not substantial enough to jeopardize (the girl’s) relationship with both her parents and extended family finds ample support in the record and is consistent with the applicable principles of relocation law.” The proposed move “considerably places the parties’ child in a position where she will be deprived of strong family unit and support system in order to move to Georgia where she has no immediate family and no more attractive opportunities.” The court also found that “(R)elocation and the proposed visitation schedule are not feasible (for the father) due to distance, time, and financial restraints” and that the mother showed “only a slight difference in the cost of living” between Bergen County and Atlanta. Also, letters from the father’s family “expressing their willingness to assist with childcare,” could allow the mother to work more hours and have a higher income. As such, the appeals court decided that the mother could not relocate.
If you live in New Jersey share custody of a child and either you or the other parent is planning a move, contact the child custody attorneys at the Salvaggio Law Group so we can discuss the situation, the applicable law and possible resolutions to the issue. For a confidential consultation call us today at (973) 455-1220.