New Jersey has long been very protective of the shared equal rights of divorced/separated parents to their children. Under the law (N.J.S.A. 9:2-2), a Court that has authority over the custody and maintenance of children will not allow them to be removed from the state except where the child (of suitable age) or his/her parents consent. Absent consent, a parent must ask the court, and show good cause, to move the child.
In 2001, the State Supreme Court in the case of Baures v. Lewis set the standard as to what good cause means. There are basically two steps a removing custodial parent must go through in order to make an argument a judge will consider. First, he or she, in good faith (with good intentions/motives) “must show that there is a real advantage to that parent in the move and that the move is not inimical (against) to the best interests of the children.”
Second, the court will analyze twelve specific (more if circumstances require) factors that you as a custodial parent should be able to address. These factors are:
(1) the reasons given for the move;
(2) the reasons given for the opposition;
(3) 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;
(4) whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here;
(5) any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation and whether such accommodation or its equivalent is available in the new location;
(6) 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;
(7) the likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent if the move is allowed;
(8) the effect of the move on extended family relationships here and in the new location;
(9) if the child is of age, his or her preference;
(10) 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;
(11) whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate;
(12) any other factor bearing on the child’s interest.
It’s pretty clear that the court is really considering three main things: 1) The best interests of the child 2) The interests of the custodial parent; 3) The interests of the noncustodial parent. The law repeatedly confirms that the best interests/desires of the child throw all other arguments (by either parent) out. It’s also important to note that, if the same visitation and other rights a noncustodial parent has can be maintained if the other moves the child not far away, (e.g. a neighboring state) a court will often allow the removal. Evan Xavier Bakhet is a J.D. Candidate at Rutgers School of Law-Newark with a scheduled graduation date in 2017. He collaborated with me on this blog.