One of the sticky questions that arises when creating a parenting plan in divorce mediation is what happens to the family's parenting plan if one parent wants to move – in state or out of state -- and the other parent does not agree with the move?
Since 2017, the Court has said that the parent who wants to move out of state has to show that his/her plan is in the best interests of the children. Now, in a case that was decided on October 7, 2019, the NJ Appellate Court said that the standard for an out of state move would also be applied to an in-state move. According to the case, if the parent of primary residence wants to move and the other parent objects, the objecting parent has to show that the best interests of the children are affected. Once this is shown, the Court considers several factors including family relationships, the age and education of the children, the parents' employment, and the amount of time spent with each parent, etc. – to determine whether to allow the move and whether to make any adjustments to the established custody plan and parenting time. Essentially, this new decision raises the standard for divorced parents moving within the state to the same high standard applied to moves out of state.
For our divorce mediation clients at Westfield Mediation, LLC, we always recommend that our clients include a provision in their agreement on how to address moving. If the parents cannot agree on a move, they generally have to go to court to address their concerns. With this new case, they will have to show that a move in state or out, is in their children's best interests.