Moving is common after separation and divorce, but it’s wise to consult with a family law attorney before taking on a new mortgage or establishing an out-of-state residence. Such actions may impact division of marital property, custody, and parenting time arrangements.
According to a National Migration Study reported on by New Jersey Business Magazine, New Jersey was the top state for outbound moves in the country the third year in a row. Primary reasons for leaving included retirement and lifestyle, while those moving into the state primarily did so for work. Those in higher income brackets were more likely to relocate out-of-state.
A minor relocation within the state in the same jurisdiction will likely have little impact on a pending divorce or child custody dispute because it doesn’t significantly alter the facts of your case. (You will want to ensure you keep an open line of communication with your divorce attorney about it though, so you don’t accidentally miss a Court mailing or document service.) However, if you’re relocating farther away - particularly out-of-state - you want to proceed with great caution.
“One of the many perks of divorce is it leaves both parties free to live their lives without requiring approval from the other on every life decision,” said Monmouth Divorce Attorney Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never need to negotiate with your ex in the months and years ahead - particularly if you’re co-parents and you’re planning to move. Consulting with a divorce attorney ahead of time can help you avoid certain difficulties and unpleasant surprises.”
Who Enforces the Divorce Settlement Agreement if Someone Moves?
Once you’re legally divorced in New Jersey, you’re considered legally divorced in all other 50 states. This is thanks to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, a fundamental element of the U.S. Constitution requiring all states to respect the others’ judicial proceedings.
That said, the obligations set forth by the family law Court of New Jersey as part of that divorce are going to be recognized by other states too. Enforcement of the dissolution agreement will likely still rest with New Jersey Courts, unless both of you relocate and request another Court assume jurisdiction.
The state can enforce child support requirements to individuals living out-of-state by going directly through the payor’s employer and garnishing wages straight from their paycheck. Federal law requires all employers to honor child support garnishment orders from other states. One’s employer is not allowed to refuse garnishment just because the order was issued by another state’s government.
Where children are involved, you’re going to see almost always that the state that is considered the child’s “home state” will be the one that retains jurisdiction.
Parenting Time and Child Support Considerations
If you have minor children, a pending divorce, and are planning a move out of state, tread very carefully. A long distance move may significantly impact how much you see your children and how much financial support you’re required to provide.
If your goal is moving out-of-state with your child, you will need to have either the permission of the other parent or the Court. If the other parent opposes such a move, the burden of proof is on you to show why such a move is in the child’s best interests - and that can be an uphill battle if you’re taking them away from a parent who is capable and involved.
The Court will take into account:
- The position of the other parent.
- The child’s relationship with other nearby relatives (grandparents, cousins, etc.).
- The child’s education (moving can be a significant disruption to one’s schooling).
- The child’s ties to the community (sports, religious organizations, extracurricular activities, etc.)
The Court won’t disregard your interests in moving out-of-state, but the question will ultimately be what is in the child’s best interests.
Note: You should never try to relocate with your child out-of-state without the express permission of either the Court or the other parent. If your ex agrees to your plan to move with the child, best to get that agreement in writing. A lawyer can help you draft it to ensure there are no issues down the road.
Regardless of what the Court decides, parenting time arrangements between those who live in different states require unique considerations. Logistically, it may not be possible for the child to spend half the week with one parent and half the week with the other. The trade-off may be that the child spends summers and certain extended holidays with one parent, and the rest of the time with the other.
Likewise, decisions must be made about who is responsible for the cost of things like airfare and drive time. A smooth transition requires all these details must be worked out in advance.
Contact our Monmouth County Divorce Attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to schedule an appointment.