(Marlton, NJ) — One of the most common issues that comes up in family court is the issue of relocation of a child out of the jurisdiction of the State of New Jersey (also sometimes called “removal” or “removal from the state”).

Question 1. Is there some loophole I can use to move out-of-state without asking my co-parent or having to get the court involved?

The short answer is “no”. The long answer is somewhat more complicated and depends on the circumstances, but it’s still a “not really, no, not without taking risks you should really avoid.” To be clear, these can include having child support or alimony (if any) being frozen, a bench warrant being issued for your arrest, an order requiring you to return the child to New Jersey immediately, and in some situations a possible loss of primary physical custody.

There are situations when a judge will allow a party who has made a Court request to move with a child prior to a final disposition of the removal issue without the consent of the co-parent (and perhaps without telling the co-parent where exactly the custodial parent has gone.) These situations are very rare and usually involve domestic violence matters, or child abuse and neglect matters, and again, this relief has to be granted by the Judge who is hearing those matters. Hence, it will still require significant court involvement.

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Question 2. What if I can’t FIND my co-parent?!

Sometimes a biological parent is so removed from a child’s life that the custodial parent (or person, if the custodian is not a biological parent) can’t even locate him or her. Unfortunately, a custodial parent who wants to move a child out-of-state should try to find their absentee co-parent before they can safely move with the child without fear of further legal complications.

This situation is tricky but not unresolvable! It is also one of the situations where a party would strongly benefit from legal advice, because dealing with someone you can’t find impacts issues of due process, legal service (meaning “service of legal papers” in this context), and other matters that New Jersey judges tend to take extremely seriously if the non-custodial parent pops up years down the road and yells that nobody asked him or her if the child could be taken.

Question 3. I just heard my co-parent wants to move to some far away state. I’m the custodial parent. Can I file to make my co-parent stay in New Jersey?

Unfortunately, this is not a two-way street. A custodial parent cannot remove a child from New Jersey without the consent of the co-parent or a court order. A non-custodial parent, however, can move as he/she wishes. This is sometimes a problem for the custodial parent. It could be that the non-custodial co-parent is providing child care that allows the custodial parent to work. It could also be that the custodial parent is afraid that the non-custodial parent will not keep in good contact with the child, which will cause the child hurt and confusion.

 A non-custodial parent moving out of state could provide a basis for a recalculation of child support (particularly when the co-parent was providing child care that will now have to handled by day-care or a baby-sitter) or of parenting time, and a custodial parent can file that kind of relief under a changed circumstances rationale. However, there is no legal basis for a custodial parent forcing a non-custodial parent to stay in New Jersey. And of course, if the non-custodial parent intends to take the child with them when they move out of state, then a custodial parent has more grounds to file to prevent not the co-parent, but the child, from being removed without their consent

We specialize in Child Custody Law. If this pertains to you (or someone you love) call 856-227-7888 or email hinklelaw@lyndahinkle.com to schedule a free consultation about your matter (by phone or at one of our offices in Blackwood/Turnersville or Marlton.)

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Keywords: child custody law moving New Jersey