You’ve landed the job of your dreams, but there’s just one hitch: to accept it you will need to relocate with your children from New Jersey to Florida. Your ex currently lives in the same town you do and has parenting time with the kids every weekend. When you tell your ex about your new job and plans to relocate, they promise to fight you in court to stop you.
In New Jersey, it’s the law that the custodial parent of primary residence must seek permission before any move that disrupts an established parenting time agreement. This includes both out-of-state and in-state moves.
There are two ways for the parent to receive this permission: the child’s non-custodial/non-residential parent can agree to the move, and a new parenting time agreement can be drawn up. Or, in situations where the other parent objects, the custodial parent has the option of seeking permission from the courts.
Custodial parents were once only required to show the courts that the move would not be harmful to the child. If the decision to relocate was viewed by the courts as made in good faith, the custodial parent’s request was generally approved, even in the face of objections from the non-custodial parent.
New Jersey’s new rules for parental relocation requests
A year ago, these standards for evaluating parental relocation requests became much stricter. Following the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in the landmark case Bisbing v. Bisbing, all relocation requests must now meet the more far-reaching standard of the move being in the “best interests” of the child before approval will be granted.
The rule change is viewed as a way to place custodial and noncustodial parents on more equal footing. For example, in the past, a custodial parent landing a good job in another state may have been reason enough for the courts to approve the parent’s move with their child. Those days are no longer. If the custodial parent’s relocation will result in the child missing out on regular contact with the noncustodial parent — and the courts view this regular contact as in the child’s best interests — the custodial parent’s relocation request may be denied.
What does this new standard mean for your plans to move? Child custody expert Bari Weinberger offers some steps for how to evaluate your relocation plans — and make the potential move as smooth as possible for all involved.
Solutions that safeguard your child’s relationship with their parent
Before heading to court, sit down with your child’s other parent and explain your plans and what is prompting you to move, and what you can do to keep the parent’s relationship with your child as strong and stable as possible.
Depending on how far away the move is and how it will impact your current parenting time plan, you may want to offer to your child’s other parent a few extra weekends or school vacation weeks or holidays that you give up. You may decide that the child spends all or part of summer vacation with the other parent, or you can schedule in times during the week for Skype or FaceTime.
Make it known to your child’s other parent that you care about their relationship with your child and are committed to helping them maintain it.
If your child’s other parent agrees to the move, you absolutely need to get this in writing — along with any changes to your parenting time schedule. Talk to a family law attorney about how to work an agreement letter.
Consider the benefits and drawbacks of moving
Instead of the move being for a job, maybe you want to Florida because your serious romantic partner lives there. That is personally fulfilling for you, but what will the move mean for practical aspects of your child’s life? How do the schools compare? Will your child be able to take part in their same sports or hobbies? Is there the same access to medical care as where you currently live in New Jersey? Will your child be able to continue in the same religious upbringing if you move? What is your child’s relationship like with your new partner? Does your child have an easy time making new friends? If you will work in your new location, how will this impact time with your child?
The courts can take any of these factors into consideration when determining best interests. Reflect on what the answers to these questions truly are and how they will impact your child.
Is your child old enough to have a preference?
Once your child is mature enough, they may begin to express a distinct preference for which parent they want to spend more time with, or may severely resent having time with their other parent curtailed in any way. How do your plans impact time they spend with their other parent? How flexible are you with agreeing to your child spending long stretches of time (i.e. summer vacation) with their other parent? For long-distance moves, will you (and the child’s other parent) be able to financially afford the possible air travel or other costs that your child needs to spend time with their other parent?
Talk to a family law attorney
Working with a family law attorney can help you evaluate your options and understand the best ways to present your request, and what you can do to support your child’s best interests. If you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement, your attorney can make sure this agreement will be accepted by the courts. If needed, a family law attorney can help you submit your request to move to the courts and also help with any related custody modification issues. Look for family law attorneys that offer free consultations so you can go over your situation and get answers to your questions.
Your next move
New jobs, new relationships, and a desire for a new start in life can motivate people to relocate out of New Jersey to live someplace different, and often, someplace very far away. Relocating and starting over may indeed be the best decision for you. But the courts in New Jersey now want you to stop and carefully ask yourself: is this the best decision for your kids?
Ask the Child Custody Expert: How Do I Protect Myself from Parental Alienation?
By Bari Weinberger
Parental alienation happens when one parent brainwashes a child into believing the other parent is “bad” or dangerous, so that the child rejects that parent. The alienation can occur almost overnight and most often occurs in high-conflict divorces.
Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse, and the impact of parental alienation is equally devastating for both the targeted parent and the child. The trauma that occurs in children who are severed from their other parent in this way can lead to anxiety, depression, and deep feelings of mistrust and lack of attachment in their future relationships, including their own marriage and relationships with their own children.
Thankfully, the New Jersey courts have become much more informed and diligent in recognizing and addressing cases of parental alienation. In severe cases, it may even be grounds for the alienating parents to have their parenting time reduced. The courts may also order reunification therapy to help alienated parents and children begin to heal their wounds and rebuild their relationships.
Are you seeing red flags that your children’s other parent is trying to alienate them from you? It’s time to take immediate action. Family law expert Bari Weinberger has three strategies to protect your kids and combat parental alienation.
Maintain contact with your children
Alienators often try to thwart visitation and phone communication. It’s easy to feel hopeless when you’re consistently denied access to your children or, worse, when they refuse to see you because they’ve been told you’re dangerous or that you don’t care about them.
Keep scrupulous records of all contact with your children, carefully noting those times you’re denied access or your children refused to see or talk to you (and why). Also record things like cards your kids have sent you, activities that you engage in during parenting time, and anyone who’s spent time with you (i.e., you went on a picnic with another family from your child’s school).
If your ex interferes with visitation, or your kids are afraid to go because of your ex badmouthing you to them, go to court and file a complaint that the parent is in violation of the parenting time order. This gets the alienation on the record and lets the alienator know that you aren’t going to let weeds grow in the garden of your most precious relationships. A judge will hear from both of you. You can present your custody log at that time.
No matter how much your ex misbehaves, keep making contact with your kids: keep calling, texting, e-mailing, and attending school events. They may not respond, but they will know that you care. And continue to show up for visitation — even if they refuse to see you. Many adult children of parental alienation say they interpreted their parents’ absence as proof that that parent didn’t love them. When that happens, the alienating parent has won.
Encourage your child to speak to you directly
Parental alienation functions like a cult. The alienating parent (AP) isolates the child from the targeted parent (TP) so they only hear the AP’s skewed reality and come to believe that this is The Truth.
How do you combat this? Tell your child to come to you if they have questions about anything they have heard about you, or something they believe about you that worries them. All children, be they children of divorce or intact families, need to learn to speak to parents directly instead of using the other as a go-between. Your child might not believe you, but at least they are getting the opportunity to hear your side of the story –a story which might seem more reasonable to them as they mature and develop critical thinking skills.
Address the other parent’s lies
According to conventional divorce wisdom, you should turn the other cheek when you’re being badmouthed. The logic behind this advice is that kids are emotionally burdened when parents share their personal problems. That’s true, but the fact is, they are already being hurt by the alienator’s lies. Not addressing your ex’s hijinks is like pretending there’s no elephant in the room and can even make your children doubt reality.
Present your side of the story calmly and factually: you do love your child—very much—and that’s why you show up for every soccer game and piano recital; you do have fun together and here are photos of your camping trip to prove it; you do send text messages to contact them and here’s a record on your phone. The more you challenge the alienator’s false statements, the greater the chance your children will also.
Manage your emotional reactivity
It’s normal to feel angry, scared, and defensive when you’re continually being insulted and slandered by an ex who cannot manage their emotions. But it’s imperative that you do your best to manage your own emotions when you’re around your kids. If your ex tells your children you’re scary and then you act scary (because you get so frustrated you blow your top), you will just confirm your ex’s version of the truth. If you find yourself flying off the handle, reach out to professionals for help: therapy, meditation, exercise, journaling, etc. Repeat the mantra: keep calm and carry on.
Resources and help for parental alienation
For those who have been affected by parental alienation, please know that it is possible to overcome these tragic circumstances and reunify with your kids.
As a next step, please watch the free webinar: Parental Alienation: How To Reconnect With Your Kids for legal and therapeutic tips you can put into practice today.
Another helpful step is to find a family law attorney who has experience dealing with issues of parental alienation. Many attorneys and family law firms offer free initial consultations. At your meeting, your attorney can listen to your concerns and outline a clear legal strategy for safeguarding your children and protecting your rights as their parent.
Bari Weinberger is a family law expert, author, keynote speaker, and certified matrimonial attorney at Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group. In addition to the numerous awards she and her firm have received, and the decades of successful outcomes for families going through difficult times, Bari is a mom herself. She understands that your family law matter can leave you vulnerable and exposed at a time when you need protection, clarity and peace of mind. Finding the right legal counsel adds to the confusion, darkening your situation even more. Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group is the bright answer to safeguarding your rights, your children, and securing the promising new future you deserve.
Need help with your situation? Schedule a free initial consultation online at WLG.com or by calling (844) 280-2536.