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Interstate Relocation…in the Future

Jun 17, 2015 | Written by: Diana N. Fredericks, Esq. |

Recently, my partner, Bill Goodwin, published a post titled, “Removing Minor Children from the State of New Jersey.” As he indicated, relocation cases are often the most difficult for our judges to decide, as the results will either deny a parent’s right to relocate (which may mean foregoing a new job or marriage) or will remove the child(ren) from one parent, possibly across the country or perhaps even to a foreign country. These cases are often the most litigated and appealed, as one cannot literally “cut the baby in half” to appease both sides. In some circumstances, the litigation continues for so long (years) that the circumstances change during the litigation, necessitating even more litigation. This was certainly the case in Morgan v. Morgan, which went before the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

In Morgan, Justice Long, writing for a unanimous court, held, “After a divorce, applications by a custodial parent to relocate with the children are fairly common. For all their ubiquity, however, such requests present us with difficult and often heart-wrenching decisions. Inevitably, upon objection by a noncustodial parent, there is a clash between the custodial parent’s interest in self-determination and the noncustodial parent’s interest in the companionship of the child. There is rarely an easy answer or even an entirely satisfactory one when a noncustodial parent objects. If the removal is denied, the custodial parent may be embittered by the assault on his or her autonomy. If it is granted, the noncustodial parent may live with the abiding belief that his or her connection to the child has been lost forever.”

In response to Morgan and the litany of litigation involving relocation, the New Jersey State Bar has been drafting proposed legislation, which, if enacted, would specifically address interstate legislation. In essence, the proposed statute appears to codify some of the existing case law and specifically invalidate others.

Some of the proposed factors are:

  1. Reasons for seeking or opposing relocation
  2. The right of the child separated from one parent to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis in a manner consistent with the child’s development, except if the contact is contrary to the child’s best interests
  3. The parties’ proposals for the practical arrangements of relocation, including accommodation, schooling and employment
  4. The view of the child regarding relocation if the child is of appropriate age and maturity
  5. Any history of domestic violence or abuse, whether physical or psychological
  6. Pre-existing custody and parenting time determinations
  7. The history of the family and particularly the continuity and quality of past and current care and contact arrangements, including any prior relocation
  8. The impact of granting or refusing relocation of the child, paying particular attention to the child’s extended family, education and social life
  9. The nature of the inter-parental relationships and the commitment of the applicant to support and facilitate the relationship between the stay-behind parent after relocation
  10. Whether the parties’ proposals for parenting time after relocation are realistic, paying particular attention to the cost to the family and burden to the child;
  11. The enforceability of parenting time provisions ordered as conditions of relocation in the state of destination
  12. The issues of mobility for family members, both seeking and opposing relocation
  13. The economic impact of relocation on both parents; and
  14. Any special medical, mental, or educations needs of the child and the likelihood that those needs can be met at the same or better level in the state of destination than in the State of New Jersey; and
  15. Any other factor the court may deem relevant under the circumstances.

The current status of removal in New Jersey remains complicated.  The potential changes in the law are critical to relocations cases and will be monitored closely by us. We will continue to post as new information becomes available. Please check our site for updates.

For assistance with issues relating to relocation, please contact Diana N. Fredericks, Esq. to schedule your consultation at 908-735-5161 or by email.  Ms. Fredericks handles all types of family law matters. Ms. Fredericks currently serves as Vice President for the Hunterdon County Bar Association and is an active member of several HCBA committees. In 2015, Ms. Fredericks was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of family law by Thomson Reuters, and to the 2015 New Leaders of the Bar list by the New Jersey Law Journal.