Moving – Is It Possible?
Americans always have been moving, going back to the days of the Conestoga wagons heading west across the Prairie. Because New Jersey is home to many large company headquarters and operations, it’s commonplace for divorced fathers who have custody of their children to be offered a promotion and transfer, or who accept a new job. When it happens, they call me asking “Can I move and take my children to another state?”
Usually, the answer is a definite “Maybe.”
Unlike our pioneer ancestors, a divorced father cannot just load up the minivan, put the kids in the back seat and take off to a new job outside of New Jersey. Unless the divorce decree anticipated such a move and the custody agreement spells out the circumstances under which a father can move with the kids, the details have to be negotiated with your children’s mother and be approved by the court.
Moving without going through this process may expose you to a possible charge of “parental kidnapping,” a felony, and you might lose custody of your children.
Just as important, a federal law adopted by all 50 states with the cumbersome name of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act says that a court-approved custody agreement in New Jersey will be enforced by every other state. So, if you move without getting your ex’s approval and that of a judge, you could be ordered to return the children. No one wants the police to show up with a court order to take your kids away. It’s not good for you and it’s especially not good for your children.
So how do you accept that great promotion and move out of state with the kids?
If the new location is close – you’re being transferred to an office in Manhattan from Montclair or to Philadelphia from around Nutley – it’s likely to be easier to re-negotiate the custody arrangement than if you are destined for Southern California.
If the mother objects to the move and we cannot reach an agreement with her, we can ask a judge to modify the custody order. Frequently, judges will approve the move as long as these three situations don’t come into plays:
- The move is a sudden decision that wasn’t made in the best interests of the children; for example, if the father quits his job hoping to find a better opportunity somewhere else.
- The real purpose of the move is to get the mother out of the picture.
- The children don’t want to move and the mother wants custody.
If the move is allowed, the judge usually rearranges visiting rights so that while time with the mother may be less frequent, visits last longer. For instance, your kids might spend all of their longer school breaks as well as a month or more in the summer with their mother.
At the same time, the court may modify child support payments based on the new living arrangements of your kids.
Covering the Cost
If you have to renegotiate your custody arrangement or go to court, there are likely to be costs involved. Many progressive companies will cover part or all of your attorney and court fees as part of its relocation package. Be sure to speak with your employer’s human resources department.
We Can Help
As New Jersey family law attorneys, we’ve handled a growing number of cases where a father needs to relocate out of state and wants to take the children with him. We understand how the court looks at these requests and will fashion yours to meet your goals, the desires and best interests of your children and what the court will look for as part of granting approval.
If you’re being transferred or getting a new job that will involve moving out of New Jersey, call us at 973-562-0100 in Nutley or 862-245-4620 in Montclair to discuss your specific situation. You can also contact us online.