When a couple splits, they often go their own ways geographically. A new job, family obligations, or just the need for a fresh start are all good reasons to get out of town, but there are tricky legal issues that can come up if you’re sharing custody of your kids with an ex. New Jersey’s Superior Court looked at some of those issues in a recent case.
Husband filed for divorce from Wife in late 2013, following four years of marriage. They were originally married in India and relocated to New Jersey after having a child. Wife moved to Connecticut with the boy shortly after Husband filed for divorce, but then she relocated again to West Windsor, New Jersey. Husband then moved from South Plainfield to West Windsor to be closer to the child. The parties eventually agreed to share joint custody of their son, along with a 50/50 time share.
During the divorce proceedings, Wife said she received an offer to work for an Indian company in Charlotte, North Carolina. She asked the court to allow her to move there with her son. The trial court denied the request, finding that the move would not be in the child’s best interests. The trial judge said in particular that upsetting the even time split between the parents would not benefit the child.
The Superior Court affirmed the decision on appeal. “An application for removal requires an initial inquiry into the type of parenting arrangement between the parties and whether the matter is actually an application for a change in custody as opposed to a removal case,” the Court explained. In situations in which the parents “truly share both legal and physical custody,” the Court said judges consider the request a request for a change to that custody arrangement. As a result, the parent seeking the change has to show that it would better serve the child’s interests than the current arrangement, the Court said.
In this case, Husband and Wife had joint legal custody of the child and a shared parenting arrangement. Although Wife testified favorably about the school systems in North Carolina, the trial court said it wasn’t enough to show that changing the current arrangement would benefit the boy. The schools appeared comparable to those in New Jersey, and there was no evidence showing that the boy had any other family in North Carolina.
Perhaps more importantly, the trial court said the company for which Wife was to work didn’t appear to have a North Carolina office, and she wasn’t able to provide any information about her work schedule. The Superior Court also noted that Husband had already moved once to be closer to the child. “It was unreasonable to allow [Wife] to relocate with their young child once again, so soon after [Husband] had uprooted himself to accommodate her,” the Court said.
The New Jersey child custody lawyers at Helfand & Associates have more than 100 years of combined experience representing clients in a wide range of divorce, child custody, and support cases. Our lawyers work diligently to ease the stress on clients in what can be a trying process by building the strongest possible cases for the people whom we represent. Tanya N. Helfand, Esq., is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney of New Jersey.
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