This is the first in a series of three articles about parents and children who live in or hope to live in different states. It describes the New Jersey laws that apply when one parent wants to move with a child or children out of New Jersey. The second article, Custody and Parenting Issues For Parents Living in Different States, discusses child custody and parenting time (visitation) issues for parents living in different states. The third and final article, Child Support Issues for Parents Living in Different States, discusses child support issues for parents who live in different states.
This article is intended to assist both custodial parents (sometimes called the parent of primary residence) and non-custodial parents (sometimes called the parent of alternate residence) to understand the New Jersey laws that apply to moving a child to another state. If the non-custodial parent wants to move out of New Jersey (without a child), there are no laws that prevent the move. However, if a custodial parent wants to move out of New Jersey with a child, the courts may become involved and may ultimately prevent the parent from moving the child out of state. When a parent moves out of a state with a child, the legal term is removal or removing the child to another state.
Removing a child to another state usually makes it much more difficult for the parent left in New Jersey to have frequent contact with the child. In a typical custody order, a non-custodial parent may be granted parenting time with the child every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening and dinner time every Wednesday. If the custodial parent with such a parenting-time schedule moved with the child from New Jersey to Florida, it would be practically impossible for the parent remaining in New Jersey to see the child on the schedule ordered by the court.
For that reason, several laws create restrictions on a parent removing a child to another state. It is a crime to withhold a child from the other parent during court-ordered parenting time. Unless the child moves nearby in a neighboring state, removing a child to another state creates such a barrier to parenting time that the parent who moved the child may be charged criminally with unlawful interference of parenting time. An exception may be made if the custodial parent who removes the child is fleeing from immediate risk of physical harm from the other parent or immediate risk of harm to the welfare of the child, but the custodial parent MUST report the removal and the reason within 24 hours to one of the following:
A parent who wants to move with a child to another state should discuss these wishes or plans with the other parent. Under New Jersey law, a parent may remove a child to another state only with either (1) consent of the other parent or (2) a court order granting permission, unless the parent is (3) fleeing immediate risk, as discussed above. If both parents agree that the custodial parent will move to another state with the child, the moving parent should first ask the non-custodial parent to sign a written statement that he or she consents to the move. This can be a simple typed or neatly handwritten paper stating that the non-custodial parent gives the custodial parent permission to move with the child outside of New Jersey. The paper should be signed by both parents, before a notary if possible. The law does not require the consent to be in writing, but it is very helpful in avoiding a misunderstanding or last-minute change of heart.
If the non-custodial parent does not agree to the child moving to another state, the custodial parent must ask the court for an order granting permission to remove the child to the other state. If the custodial parent moves or states an intent to move in the near future with the child to another state, the non-custodial parent may ask the court (on an emergency basis, if necessary) to enter an order prohibiting the custodial parent from moving the child out of New Jersey, at least until a court can hear the case.
If the custodial parent files formal papers with the court (called a motion or application, depending on whether the parents are divorced) to remove the child to another state, that parent must include factual statements that show that the move is in the child’s best interest. This usually starts with explaining the reasons for the move, such as a good job or supportive relatives in the other state. Because moving the child to another state will impact the current order, it is also a request to modify the current custody and parenting-time order. Just like in a custody hearing, the parent seeking to move with the child must also address the factors that are listed in the child custody statute related to best interest of the child. Those include:
The parent seeking to move with the child should compare the medical, educational, and recreational resources available for the child in New Jersey and in the other state, especially if the child has special needs, talents, or interests that require the use of such resources. For example:
The custodial parent should also provide in writing a reasonable parenting-time schedule for the child to maintain a strong relationship with the other parent. Such a schedule may include the majority of school holidays being spent with the New Jersey parent. The plan must also include reasonable transportation arrangements, including both the type of transportation that is available and a proposal of who will pay toward the transportation. A parenting-time plan may include both the child returning to New Jersey and the non-custodial parent traveling to the child’s new state. If the non-custodial parent will be expected to travel to the other state for parenting time, the plan must include provisions for both that parent’s transportation and a place to stay.
In addition to visits between the non-custodial parent and the child, other types of communications should be considered, including telephone (cell phone), email, and other computer-assisted communications such as instant messaging, digital photographs, and webcams.
A non-custodial parent who does not want the child to leave New Jersey must respond to the request with a reply certification that corrects any statements in the custodial parent’s papers that are inaccurate. The non-custodial parent must also state the reasons that the child should not leave New Jersey. These reasons often include concerns about the limits on parenting time available from another state, as well as any concerns about the child’s safety, health, education, or general welfare from moving to the other state. As an example, a non-custodial parent might want to give the court documents confirming that the child is disabled and receives appropriate special education services through the public schools, but those services are not available in the community that is being proposed.
Upon receiving the papers from both parents, the court is expected to hold a hearing for each parent to prove the factual statements in their papers and to make persuasive arguments about whether the child’s best interests are served by moving to the other state and using the proposed parenting-time schedule.
This information last reviewed: Mar 12, 2018