The Centerpiece of Superior Court: Family Part Law, As Evidenced in a Relocation Ruling
Navigating raising a child with a co-parent is a challenging thing. Whether or not you get along with your child’s other parent, the nuances of shared parental time are tricky to master.
The New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part exists to provide a solid legal container within which to operate so that the parents have a framework from which to operate, and the children’s best interests are always kept at the center.
One recent example of the Superior Court: Family Part seemingly moving outside of precedent to uphold this primary mission of keeping the child’s best interest at the center was in the case of M.E.G. v. C.P. (2021). Read on to learn more about the details of the case and how the wellbeing of the child takes precedent over all legal structures in the eyes of Superior Court: Family Part judges; from this bird’s eye view, precedents are broken, and new precedents are set, lending evolution to the Court’s perspective and ruling.
If a Parent is Thinking of Relocating a Child Out-of-State
According to New Jersey law, both parents must permit a custodial parent to remove a child from New Jersey if that child has lived in the state for at least five years. Laws are fairly lax when it comes to in-state moves; as long as the parenting time agreement can be upheld in the new New Jersey location and the non-custodial parent can continue to share sufficient time with the child, an in-state move is usually legally backed. However, because out-of-state moves require a much more drastic shift for the child, and they often upend parenting time agreements, the non-custodial parent must agree to the move. If the custodial parent cannot get the go-ahead of the non-custodial parent in the matter, the Court must approve the move through a court-ordered relocation agreement. This agreement provides amended parenting time parameters, and permission for the custodial parent to remove the child from the state is only granted by the Superior Court: Family Part when the 14 factors ensuring the child’s best interest are met.
The Fourteen Points Considering Custody of a Child
When a parent wishes to relocate to a different state with their child and court approval is sought, the Superior Court reviews the same 14 factors proving the child’s best interest that it reviews in a custody case, according to Section 9:2-4. When reviewed equally, they create a landscape through which the Court can see what the best option for the child is, either relocation or the denial of such a move. The 14 factors are as follows:
- What is the child’s relationship with each of their parents, and what is their relationship with their siblings, either full, half, or step-siblings?
- What are the specific needs of the child, and how are those needs met in each of the proposed locations?
- How capable are the parents of working together to create a co-parenting scenario that gives the child access to both parents in a wholesome way? The Superior Court: Family Part holds that the best interest of the child is to have a relationship with both parents; as such, the Court will move toward this ideal if collaboration between parents is possible.
- How much quality time has each parent spent with the child, both before separation, after separation, and in light of the potential move?
- How old is the child?
- What are the desires of the child? If the parents have different desires regarding the relocation and the child is of sufficient age to form their own decision regarding the move, the Court will consider the child’s opinion.
- How stable is the child’s current home setting? What kind of home environment would the child be moving into with the custodial parent?
- How capable is each parent of caring for their child in physical, financial, and psychological terms?
- What are each parent’s professional capacities as well as responsibilities? How capable is the parent of maintaining a stable job and caring for the child?
- How far away from the child’s current home is the custodial parent planning to take the child, and what does this mean for the parenting time agreement and the capacity of the non-custodial parent to maintain a strong relationship with the child?
- How would relocation affect the child’s education? What are educational options in each place?
- Is there a history of domestic violence by either parent?
- Is the child safe with either or both parents?
In M.E.G. v. C.P., the Court had already approved a relocation agreement allowing the defendant to move her son to Florida from New Jersey to allow for more financial freedom. Though the parents were not married, they shared an agreement that the father would relocate to Florida as well soon. Months after the move, the couple’s relationship dissolved. In addition, the mother had trouble finding a good-paying job in Florida. As such, she returned to New Jersey with her son and asked the father to care for him until she could find proper employment. In the Court’s ruling, it noted that the father, the plaintiff, had denied the request by the child’s mother to house his son initially. Ultimately, the child stayed with the father while the mother returned to Florida. When the mother found a job as an occupational therapist some months later, she returned to take her son back to Florida and did so without her ex’s permission. She did so under the auspices that the original relocation agreement had put her in the place of primary residential parent. The father took the case to court, filing an Order to Show clause, and the mother was ordered to return to New Jersey with her child. At this point, she filed a Motion to be named Parent of Primary Residence. However, even though she was deemed so in the prior standing relocation agreement, the Court determined that the father would be named Parent of Primary Residence, as he and the child had established the child in the family and educational community of New Jersey in the mother’s absence, and he was a stable provider.
You deserve to have your rights protected as a parent supporting the best interests of your child.
If you are navigating the legal terrain of relocating your family while maintaining parenting time agreements, we’re on your side.
At Montanari Law Group, we successfully represent clients in Nutley, Glen Ridge, Upper Montclair, Passaic, Clifton, Wayne, Totowa, Paramus, South Orange, and towns around Passaic County, Essex County, and New Jersey.
Contact our Family Law Attorneys with local offices in Little Falls, NJ for a free consultation by calling (973) 233- 4396 today for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your relocation case.