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Removing Minor Children from the State of New Jersey

Jun 11, 2015 | Written by: William W. Goodwin, Jr., Esq. |

For more than 100 years, New Jersey has had a law on the books that addresses when and under what circumstances a divorced or separated parent may remove minor children from our jurisdiction to live elsewhere. The basic premise behind the statute is our state's public policy, which dictates it is in the best interest of children of separated or divorced parents to have "frequent and continuing contact" with both parents.

To be clear, this law addresses permanent moves and not a vacation or other short-term jaunt. Nor does it deal with a situation where a parent chooses to move from one location within New Jersey to another. Though the custody arrangements may have to be adjusted as a result, such intrastate relocations are routinely permitted.

In its most basic terms, the law provides that such a parent may not move the children to another jurisdiction (state) without either the consent of the other parent or, failing that, by order of a Court. The statute further provides that the standard to be applied by a Court, when such an issue is brought before it, is whether or not the parent desiring to relocate has "shown cause." For the better part of the past 50 years, our courts have grappled with these two simple words and, as a result, a body of case law has developed that provides guidance to Judges and lawyers.

The threshold question when a "removal" issue is raised is what type of parenting arrangement the parties have had since the time of separation. If it is truly a "shared" (essentially 50/50) arrangement, then the standard to be applied is whether the proponent of the move has shown a change in circumstances justifying the move. This is a very difficult hurdle to surmount. In those cases where there is not a shared arrangement, the Court is to balance the competing interests of the parents: one who wishes to move on with his or her life and the other of whom wants to have ready access to his or her children. In performing this analysis, there are roughly 14 factors a Court has to weigh and consider. The interests of the children are paramount in all such cases.

I have tried many of these cases over the past 34 years and they are among the most difficult decisions Judges have to render. There is a perceived "winner" on one side and "loser" on the other. The cases are factually sensitive, meaning the specific facts of each case - most notably the reasons for the move and the history of post-separation dealings between the parents - dictate the results.

William W. Goodwin, Jr., Esq. is certified by the NJ Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. He is also qualified as a Mediator in the field of Family Law under the New Jersey Court rules, and he is trained in Collaborative Divorce. Contact Mr. Goodwin at 908-735-5161 or