Frequent Moves as a Reason to Modify Child Custody

Separation and divorce are difficult for everyone in the family.  The children of the relationship are no exception.  Children thrive on stability and permanency.  A divorce or separation tends to drastically change what has been the norm for a child’s day to day life.  That said, after the dust settles and the court has entered a custody order, children typically adapt to the new schedule, and life moves on.  However, any parent can tell you that children change, as do the circumstances of the parents.  After an order has been entered, either parent may file a motion with the court requesting a modification of the custody order.  In New Jersey, the parent requesting a change must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances.  There are many things that may constitute a material change of circumstances, and frequent moves of one of the parents can be one of those issues.

After a divorce or separation, it is more important than ever that parents work to provide a stable and regular schedule and home for the children.  Children derive their primary sense of security from knowing what to expect from their parents.  Although it may be inevitable that one or both parents will have to move after the divorce or separation, keeping the relocations to a minimum benefits the children by reinforcing the sense of stability.  If one parent is constantly moving, this can disrupt the children’s security.  In some cases, this could constitute a material change of circumstances sufficient to change a parenting schedule or even child custody.  This is especially true where the parent making the frequent moves has the majority of parenting time.   If you are thinking of asking for a modification of a custody order based on the custodial parent’s frequent moves, one of the most common ways a court will be willing to consider modifying a custody order, for this reason, is if the moves result in frequent school changes.  Courts, like most parents, hold a child’s education in the highest regard.  The court is likely to strongly disfavor frequent school changes.  Another way frequent moves may result in a change of custody is if the frequent moves are a result of the custodial parent having insufficient funds to maintain his or her own home.  While a court will be sensitive to a temporary financial setback, having insufficient funds to provide the basic needs of the child, including shelter, could result in a change of custody.

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