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“My Spouse Left the State of New Jersey With My Child, So What Do I Do?”
Custody battles are tough on everyone involved. Those wanting to be good, responsible parents looking out for the well-being of their children often feel like they’re jumping through hoops to spend time with them.
A parent’s worst nightmare is losing their child. You hear about it on the news, but you never think it will happen to you. Unfortunately for some parents in New Jersey, this nightmare becomes a reality when a spouse decides they want to leave the state with their child and not give them back.
In the state of New Jersey, there are laws in place to protect your parental rights in just such an event.
If Your Child Is Taken Out of State Without Your Permission or a Court Order, a Crime Has Been Committed
If you have a custody visitation plan in place, then it’s illegal for either parent to prevent the other from spending the mandated time with their children. Moving a child to another state can qualify as an obstacle to the other parent’s custodial visitation time, especially if the move isn’t near where the other parent lives.
If one parent moves away because they feel the children are in immediate danger of being physically harmed by the other parent, then an exception to this law may be made. However, the parent who moves must notify authorities of the reason for the move within 24 hours.
In this case, the authorities would include the local police or prosecutor’s office or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. From here, the authorities will investigate the claim and determine if the threat is real and the move is warranted.
Parenting Time and Visitation in New Jersey
One of the goals of the New Jersey family court system is to make the custodial process as amicable as possible. This is done to protect the interests of the children so they can have a safe and loving relationship with both parents.
The courts are trying to avoid the “all-or-nothing” view of one parent having custody and the other one does not. Whenever possible, the courts want to find a path toward joint legal custody.
In this situation, one parent is considered the PPR (parent of primary residence) while the other is the PAR (parent of alternate residence). Although the children will live with the PPR more often than the PAR, the PAR will still have a say in the children’s raising, particularly when it comes to educational, medical, and religious decisions. The only exception to this style of parenting is if one parent is deemed unfit because their active involvement with the children would be a danger to them.
As much as possible, the court will work with the parent and children’s schedules to give the PAR as much time with their children as they can. However, the whole process is guided by the simple idea of making sure the schedule is what’s best for the child.
Can One Parent Move Out of the State of New Jersey With Their Child(ren)?
One of the laws that govern this question is N.J.S.A. 9:2-2. According to this statute, no child can be relocated to a state other than New Jersey without the consent of both parents.
Some exceptions can be made under extreme circumstances, such as accusations of abuse. The only way you can relocate your child is if the court gives permission or the other parent gives permission.
In the past, this was not the case. In fact, up until a few years ago, the movement of a child was at the discretion of the PPR. The court at that time felt that if a move was good for the parent, then it would ultimately benefit the child as well.
NJ Courts Standards for Moving a Child Out of State
Now, it’s the welfare of the child which governs the decision while also focusing on the relationship the child has with both parents. The New Jersey courts will use the same legal standards to decide if a move is allowed as they would use to decide custody. Regardless of whether or not you are the PPR or the PAR, you have rights to determine where your children live.
A New Jersey judge is allowed to use the following criteria when making this decision:
- the parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters relating to the child
- the parents’ willingness to accept custody, and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time that isn’t based on substantiated abuse
- the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings
- any history of domestic violence
- the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- the child’s preference, when the child has the capacity to make an intelligent decision
- the child’s needs
- the stability of the home environment offered by the parents
- the quality and continuity of the child’s education
- the parents’ fitness to exercise custody
- the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes
- the extent and quality of the time spent with the child before or after the separation
- the parents’ employment responsibilities, and
- the age and number of the children. (N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.)
A judge can also use his or her discretion to look at other factors that may arise in specific cases. But, if a court-ordered visitation plan has been issued, then your former spouse cannot move the kids out of state unless they have your permission or the permission of the court. Either way, your rights and the rights of your children are protected.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Williamstown, Franklinville, and Mantua. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.