Revise Your Custody Agreement by Relocating Safely During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era unlike we have ever seen. In New Jersey, COVID-19 case counts have increased exponentially. New Jersey is averaging over 1,100 cases per day with four deaths. As the pandemic continues to evolve, this could have an effect on where you live with your child. You may choose to relocate to an area with fewer cases, or you may find that your job is affected by the virus.
The Spread of COVID-19
The pandemic has interrupted daily life and upset the national economic balance as well. Some regions of the country have experienced a rising caseload of the coronavirus. Since the COVID-19 vaccine has been delayed, many metropolises may consider future lockdowns, which could affect your financial standing if your place of work is threatened.
Unemployment is at record highs, and without congressional approval, unemployment extensions will expire at the end of the year. To obtain financial security, you may be considering moving your family to another city or state. There are a few implications you may want to consider before embarking on a new journey, especially if you share custody of your child with their other parent.
Permission From the Other Parent
If you and your former spouse are on amicable terms, they may agree that a relocation is in the child’s best interest. In such cases, you may be able to get express permission from the other parent to move with your child. In these situations, you may need to work together with your former spouse to make adjustments to the parenting plan that are agreeable for both parties. Oftentimes, you can have virtual meetings with a mediator, as well as your respective attorneys, to rework your plan.
Best Interest of the Child
If you and your former spouse do not agree on the relocation, you may need to seek an attorney to help you get permission from the courts. You’ll need to provide a good faith reason for relocating with your child and you’ll need to prove that it would be beneficial for them.
The courts will make the final decision about whether or not to grant you permission to move. They will apply the standard of what is in the “best interest of the child” in cases of parental joint legal and physical. When making a decision, the court will take the following factors into account.
- Older children can sometimes directly state their preferred location.
- If a child has a special interest or gift, say music or dance, a court can decide to grant him or her their preferred location to access the special services that cater to that gift.
- The mental acuity of the parents to exercise parental freedom and control also plays a role.
- The courts will evaluate the children’s education. Are the children valuing the school’s curriculum for their developmental needs?
- Is the change necessary because of parental job changes and promotions?
New Jersey Custody Laws
In no uncertain terms, according to N.J.S.A. 9:2-2, New Jersey has jurisdiction over a child who has lived in the state for a minimum of five years. In the past, it was easier to uproot a child and move to another state. The courts customarily ruled favorably in such instances. However, a 2017 supreme court case established new guidelines for relocating with children after a divorce. These are a few additional criteria the courts require for evaluation in your custody dispute.
- Will the move improve the quality of life for the parent and the children?
- In matters of medical necessity, will a child or children with special needs receive adequate care in their new legal residence?
- Was there previous domestic violence in the home?
- Are both parents able to comply with the custody order modification?
- Depending on the extent that the courts permit the custody change, can the parental relationship be preserved with differences in time scheduling by modifications of agreements and arrangements?
- Have both parents met their current obligations towards their children by satisfying court orders through fulfilling child support agreements and abiding by the current parenting time schedule?
- For a parent who is opposing the legal residence change, is it because it would be detrimental to stated child support obligations?
When the dust clears, and everything settles, you may be wondering how far you can move with your children, if you can move at all. Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers. It all depends on the specifics of your particular case.
If you have a divorce or paternity case that includes a parenting plan, you are legally bound by this mutual agreement. You will need permission from the courts to make any changes to your parenting plan agreement, which can be best handled with the help of a family law and divorce attorney.
Getting permission from the courts may be more difficult if you plan to move your children to another state. However, it can be significantly easier if you decide upon an intrastate move since the state courts will still maintain jurisdiction over your case.
Today’s technology may be of use to you if you plan to relocate away from your child’s other parent. While a relocation outside your current city could make it difficult to abide by parenting plans in terms of parenting time, virtual parenting time could provide both parties with an agreeable solution.
Non-custodial parents can often mentor and parent children with the Facetime app, Skype or other video chat services, along with instant messaging, email and other forms of electronic communication. While your agreement may still require in-person parenting time, such as for certain holidays or times of the year, virtual parenting time can sometimes be used as a supplement. This can also cut down on the costs required for travel during exchanges between parents. Because many schools are also making use of technology for electronic communication, it can also make it easier for the child to remain at their current school despite a move.
Compassionate and Aggressive Representation
Divorce is complicated enough on its own, and adding the stress of a pandemic that threatens your financial security on top of it can make the process difficult to deal with. An experienced attorney can help you to figure out the best steps to take when it comes to making sure your child is cared for, whether that involves mediation with your former spouse to come to a new parenting agreement or petitioning the courts for permission to move.
At the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco in New Jersey, we will be pleased to review your final divorce decree and paternity and custody agreements so that you can do what is best for your child. As divorce attorneys, we handle all aspects of family law, including domestic violence protective orders, guardianships, paternity and custody modifications. Contact us today at (201) 343-0078. Do not allow the pandemic to hinder your future and the well-being of your family.