Moving the Children
In cases dealing with Moving the Children, approximately one in four separated or divorced families wind up living more than one hour away from the community in which the family resided together. Likely, this means the non-custodial parent moves one hour away from the family home or the children move out of town with the child custodial parent. My advice to non-custodial parents is to permit the custodial parent to move, and to move right along with them.
Why do Moves Happen?
It is part of the process of moving on and enjoying a new chapter of life. Generally, holding back on such ambitions can become counterproductive and unhealthy. The reasons for most moves are economics. One spouse moves for a career opportunity, another moves to reside in a family home or in a community populated by extended family members. Some parents will wish to move with the children with the specific intent of depriving the other parent of the opportunity to participate in the children’s lives.
Moving the children
This advice is rarely warmly received by the non-custodial parent, since the non-custodial parent probably already feels used and the last thing, he or she wants to do is have to follow the other parent. As the children grow and mature, their preference may be expressed. They may wish to reside with the other parent. This can cause a lot of hard feelings and a lot of distress, but moving the children comes with these types of tough conversations. It is difficult enough to parent your children under one roof; it is much more difficult to parent your children in a separated state. When the separation adds an additional hour of travel time, the challenge becomes even greater.
What is “Removal”?
When the custodial parent seeks to move out of state in which the children were born and raised, it is called “removal”. Some removal is of minimal importance. For example, if you divorce in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and wish to move directly across the river into New Jersey, the impact of the “removal” would be minimal, since it may mean you are two miles away from your children. However, if mom and dad divorce in Chicago, Illinois and mom gets a fabulous job opportunity in Los Angeles, California, she is in an awful predicament. Importantly, moving the children is governed by statute NJSA 9:2-2. Custody of children of divorced or separated parents within jurisdiction of Superior Court; removal from jurisdiction.
How Removal is Seen by the Court
Typically, state laws outline that a custodial parent may not simply move the children and move out of the state without the permission of the non-custodial parent or court order. But holding back an ex-spouse will make things often worse. If it is mom moving because she has a great opportunity in another city and is more than willing to bend over backwards to try and maintain a relationship between dad and the children, she will generally be permitted to move. The court sees that low-priced airfare, advanced scheduling, regular telephone contact, and daily emails can ensure the non-custodial parent keeps in touch with the children even far away.
At the other end of the spectrum is the parent who asserts to all the world that they are going to move far away. Also, not give the non-custodial parent the new address, and cannot wait to get away from him/her so that they need not bother with sharing the children with the non-custodial parent. This person’s application to the court for removal should be denied. With such an attitude, there will be no cooperation in facilitating visitation between the non-custodial parent and the children.
Thanks to Horn Law Group, LLC intern Noah Hilsdorf.