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During and After COVID-19: Can New Jersey Men and Fathers Move with Their Children?

During and After COVID-19: Can New Jersey Men and Fathers Move with Their Children?

Like many other things during the lockdowns brought on by the pandemic, people have not been doing much moving since March. But job changes and transfers, common before COVID-19 took over everybody’s life, are likely to begin picking up again as businesses come back to life and people either return from a layoff or get a new job.

The family law attorneys at the Micklin Law Group often are asked if men and fathers in New Jersey who are the custodial parent can move with the kids because their work will take them to a different part of the state. There is both a simple and complicated answer.

Not long ago, a father who was still working explained to me when we met in our Virtual Law Office that he was being transferred.

“Not only is it more money,” he explained, “but the new community has better schools and less crime. My two boys will be able to take a school bus, and there are more activities for them. We’d be 20 miles from their mother, so they still can see her every other weekend. Do I need to get approval from a judge to move and can my ex object?”

Since we did not handle his initial divorce five years ago, I asked him to send the final decree to me so I could review it. Any existing agreements or court orders will be the deciding factor in determining whether a father can move with his kids.

Divorced New Jersey Fathers Can Move

Generally, moving within the State of New Jersey does not require the approval of a judge. In situations such as this one, the non-custodial ex-wife would be hard pressed to find a reasonable reason to object. But she would have the right to ask the court to modify the custody agreement and her parenting time. It seems clear that the move would be in the best interests of the children, always a deciding factor, and that the court would have no reason to become involved.

However, as a father and custodial parent in New Jersey, that law says that you must notify the children’s mother of the move and provide all of your new contact information.

Still, if a mother does object, she can file a motion and a judge will conduct a “mini trial,” called a plenary hearing. Typically, when a visitation schedule is being modified a court will reorganize the time children spend with each parent. A judge will take into account the distance between the parent’s homes, how cumbersome the traveling will be for both the parent and the children, and how the new schedule will benefit the kids.

What Custodial Fathers Moving Out of New Jersey Must Do

Receiving permission to move out of state is more complicated.

If a custodial father is moving out of New Jersey and wants to take the children with him, approval must be obtained from the family court. To modify a custody or visitation order, a father must demonstrate a “substantial change” that would justify a modification.

A judge will explore the reasons behind the move, why taking the children out of New Jersey will be in their best interests, how will they be able to spend a comparable amount of time with their mother given the greater distance, and how the move will affect any child support payments.

These days, a judge will also want to know about any possible medical implications that might arise if the children are moved out of state.

Obviously, the best solution is for the two parents to negotiate a new arrangement and then ask a court to approve it.

Each family situation is unique. Our child custody attorneys in New Jersey continue to work remotely and are in touch with each other and the court as well as client files thanks to our electronic infrastructure.

If you want to know what might be involved in moving – across the state or across the country –  we can meet with you in our Virtual Law Office or we can discuss your situation by phone at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.

To schedule a meeting, click here and select a day and time.

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