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I watched a case where a custodial parent wanted to move to another state with their three children, while the other parent wanted their three children to remain as is. This case involved a custodial mother wanting to relocate to another geographic area in mid-November with her three children. In move-away child custody cases, the requested destination could be a 50-mile move or a 5,000-plus-mile move. We live in New Jersey, and the mother claimed she wanted to move to Connecticut to be closer to mediate family. If the court believes the main reason for the move is to diminish contact between the child and the noncustodial parent, the court is not likely to allow the move. When a custodial parent wants to move without their child in tow, that move wouldn’t be prevented. States in America used to allow a custodial parent to move to another state with their children in tow, but now restrictions on a custodial parent exist. State law allows a parent to move to another state with their child in tow with the non-custodial parent’s consent, or with a court order granting permission. The custodial parent in this case discussed their plans to move, to which the non-custodial parent resented the plans. This is where I learned that courts consider numerous points when determining whether to allow a move, or not. When a custodial parent decides to move, decisions would need to be made concerning where the children will live and how and to what extent the non-custodial parent will maintain a relationship with them. This is where the court was deciding which parent would better meet the best interest to their children, and considered their children’s attachment to their current home, school and community.When the custodial parent removes a child to another state, it is usually much more difficult for the non-custodial parent to have parenting time with the child. This discussion, in particular, took a big portion of time in court. In a typical custody order, a non-custodial parent would be granted parenting time with their child every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening. In this case, the custodial parent wanted to move with their children to Connecticut. While Connecticut doesn’t require a plane ticket, it is still several hours from Northern New Jersey, in our case, Bergen County. Therefore it would be practically impossible for the non-custodial parent remaining in New Jersey to see the child on the initial schedule ordered by the court. It is for this exact reason that several laws restrict the custodial parent from removing a child to another state without approval. Unless the custodial moves to a neighboring state close in distance, removing a child to another state creates such a barrier to parenting time that the parent who has moved the child may be charged with the crime of unlawful interference with parenting time. In this case, the distance between the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent’s new address was 3 hours. A promising factor in turning down permission for an out of state move could be if the non-custodial parent has a good reason for opposing the relocation of their child. In this case, the non-custodial parent had a close relationship with his children. The noncustodial parent argued that it is not in the best interest of his children because the move would disrupt the frequent contact between them.  If the non-custodial parent was not close to their child or has not regularly exercised visitation, the court would be more likely to allow the move. If the court granted the move, the non-custodial parent would no longer be able to participate in the day-to-day life of their children. This includes missing out on aspects a parent might often overlook, such as carpooling, school events, helping with homework and extra curricular activities. On the other hand, if the Court denies the custodial parent’s move-away request and the custodial parent has no choice but to move away from their current geographic location without their children, for example, in work related moves, then the child would be separated from the parent with whom the child could also be close with. In either situation, the child would lose out.The next aspect in the hearing was presenting how their children would benefit in moving with the custodial parent. This included discussing how their children would be living in a smaller and closer community and going to a better school. The custodial parent had evidence prepared, as well as witnesses from the community she was planning to move to. If the custodial parent would benefit from the move, such as being happier at a new job or with a new spouse, than the court would assume it would also benefit their child. Despite the noncustodial parent disapproving the move, one factor in favor of the noncustodial parent if the move was approved would be the court believes that reasonable restructuring of visitation can preserve and promote a good relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent. Restructuring of visitation involves scheduling more visitations over holiday breaks and during the summer. In some cases, the noncustodial parent and child may actually spend more time together each year under the restructured schedule than under the original schedule, although the restructured schedule will have less frequent periods of visitation. In this case, the noncustodial parent argued that frequency of contact was more important than larger blocks of time. This is an aspect that would affect the court’s decision. The court is also less likely to allow moving with a child in tow if the parents cannot afford the visits over a long distance. The cost of travel on the custodial parent was assessed, and it was proven through financial records that visitation would be affordable, but the court ruled that depending on their decision to go with the move, the non-custodial parent’s child support would be reduced in order to facilitate visits.  A decision wasn’t made in this hearing, as another hearing date for the final decision was set in order to review the evidence shown in this hearing and throughout the case. The hearing was definitely interesting to sit in on, and I felt fortunate to hear summaries stemming from past hearings in the case that would have otherwise been boring to listen to. I felt as if I were watching a soap-opera, and it gave me insight into what my own parent’s experienced during their divorce when I was three years old. Based on my own bias, I grew up visiting my dad only on weekends, despite my parents living in the same town, and even on the same street for several years. I was always sad that I couldn’t see my dad more often, and I admit that he was my more favorite parent. (My mom was the disciplinary.) So in watching this case, I could sense that their divorce was bitter and that the mother at this point was being selfish. I was rooting for the dad the entire time, and while a decision wasn’t made in this hearing, I can only hope that the court ruled in his favor in the end.

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