Can I Move Away with My Child in NJ? Understanding Relocation Rules

reasons a judge will deny relocation

Everyone tells you that once you have children with someone, you are joined to them for life. But what they don’t tell you is what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out. New Jersey, like most states, leans toward joint custody arrangements whenever possible.

In this arrangement, both parents have equal rights; therefore, any major decisions about your child(ren) together, including where they live, must be agreed upon beforehand. This can make it very difficult to legally relocate with the child—particularly if your move would impact the other parent’s parenting time.

When you and your former partner can not agree, you will need to file a request for relocation—typically with the assistance of a child custody lawyer. The judge will consider the specific reasons behind your request and either accept or deny it. Below, we explain what the relocation process looks like and how judges make their decisions.

Can a Custodial Parent Just Move Away?

No, a custodial parent cannot just move away with their child. But we should also define what “moving” or relocating really means. Typically, in these cases, it refers to moving out of state or far enough away that it would interfere with or violate the existing custody and parenting time agreement.

In New Jersey, under N.J. Stat. § 9:2-2, children who are natives or long-term residents of the state, cannot be removed from the state against their will if old enough, or without both parents’ consent if too young, unless the court specifically allows it after weighing the circumstances.

That does not necessarily mean you are bound to live within a certain distance of the other parent forever. However, it does mean that you need to comply with family court rulings concerning the custody order.

How Family Law Judges Determine Whether to Grant or Deny Relocation

For years, it was easier for a parent in New Jersey to relocate with a child as long as the move would not be harmful to the child. The New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Bisbing v. Bisbing made it more difficult for a parent to relocate with a child by requiring that such moves be evaluated under a “best interests of the child” standard rather than just showing the move would not harm the child.

This “best interests of the child” standard takes precedence over any parent’s desire to relocate. The court will analyze numerous factors, including:

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate and make joint decisions about the child
  • Each parent’s willingness and fitness to be involved in the child’s life
  • The quality of the child’s relationship with each parent and siblings
  • Any history of domestic violence or safety concerns
  • The child’s own preference, if they are old enough to express it
  • The child’s specific needs and how relocation could impact them
  • The stability of the living situation in each parent’s home
  • Continuity of the child’s education
  • The geographic distance between the parents’ residences
  • Each parent’s work obligations
  • The age(s) of the child(ren)

The court can also consider any other factors deemed relevant to the specific case. Even if relocation would not harm the child, that does not necessarily mean it is in their best interests. Parenting time schedules laid out in a divorce judgment are binding legal arrangements that cannot just be disrupted by one parent’s unilateral decision to move far away with the child.

Top Three Reasons a Judge Will Deny Your Relocation Request

#1 You Were Recently Divorced

One of the often disregarded reasons that judges may decline to issue a relocation is because the divorce was recently settled. While there is no specific timeline for when a relocation request can be issued, the judge may question why the moving parent did not mention their intention to move in the initial custody agreement.

Judges generally do not like to modify court orders frequently and may deny relocation right after a divorce agreement has been made on the grounds that it would not reflect the best interest of the child.

#2 The Move Will Make the Current Custody Agreement Impossible

Another reason the judge will deny relocation is that your new location will make the current custody agreement impossible. Custody terms are very difficult to modify, and few secondary considerations will adequately justify the move in situations where a move out of state would result in parental alienation. If a child custody arrangement would be significantly changed because of the custodial parent’s proposed move, the court may deny the request outright.

#3 The Move Isn’t In the Child’s Best Interest

The most common reason for denying a relocation request is that the decision would not be in the child’s best interest. Ultimately, that is the primary motivation behind any child custody order. If you want to move with your child, you need to be able to demonstrate that that decision would not produce significant harm.

Sometimes, when a child is doing well in their current situation, a judge will be very hesitant to allow for relocation. Divorce is already very destabilizing. The judge may deny your move of state to preserve the child’s ability to continue fostering relationships with their friends the same way they might consider the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Seek Legal Guidance for Child Relocation Requests

While having good reasons to make the move will not necessarily guarantee approval, bad reasons usually result in rejection. If you can establish that your move will benefit the child, that will help your request.

If you are being forced to move for work, that, of course, is another good reason to file for relocation. On the other hand, if your actions are viewed as being denied to punish the other parent—or if you have an established history of being uncooperative with your former partner, it may give the judge a reason to deny a relocation request.

Child relocation cases can be complex, and the outcome often hinges on the specific details of your situation. Our experienced family law attorneys at Netsquire can provide valuable guidance as you navigate this process. We will carefully evaluate your circumstances, advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and advocate for an outcome that protects your child’s best interests.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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