Newark, NJ asked in Child Custody for New Jersey

Q: My 17yr old son wants to start school & reside with his Dad in NC. I don't consent. My son gets free tuition at Rutgers.

My son graduated high school and will be visiting his dad for two weeks. If my son refuses to leave NC. What can I do as his custodial parent?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Diamond
Richard Diamond
  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Millburn, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: Since your son is only 17, I presume that he is going into his senior year of high school as opposed to starting college in September. So, lets play this out for you.

Under the terms of your divorce agreement, you are the primary custodial parent and your ex has parenting time with him.

Something has changed since the agreement was entered into whereby your son wants to live with his dad full time and presumably visit with you.

You disagree and at the end of the 2 weeks of vacation time, your son says that he wants to stay in North Carolina with his dad and go to school there.

You say no and your ex refuses to bring your son back up to NJ.

You then retain counsel and file an application with the court to compel him to return and for sanctions.

Your ex files opposition papers to your application, saying that your son made the decision to stay and it is his idea with no pressure from dad and he provides information showing that the decision was made by your son and that your son is offering to speak with the court to confirm his decision and that your son has told you of his plan to move in with his dad, now that he is 17 years old.

At best, the judge says that he is not going to permit this type of action from taking place and orders your 17 year old son to return to NJ.

If he returns, he will be angry and defiant. If he refuses and your ex says that he is doing nothing to prevent him from returning to you, but that your son simply will not go. What are you going to do next?

Sometimes ( not always), children want to go live with the other parent for a million reasons while they are growing up. It does not mean that your son does not love you or loves the other parent more... sometimes, they just want to try it out or because they are having difficulties in their current school setting or because they think the other parent will be more lenient than the rules in your house. Regardless, by age 17, it is really tough for a judge to do anything to force the child back to your house.

Presuming your son wants to live with your ex for his senior year of high school, my suggestion is that you reach out to your ex and point out that for college purposes, Rutgers would be free for him and if he wants to attend college in North Carolina, he can do so as long as your ex picks up the cost of attendance there.

Instead of being angry, you may be better off trying to figure out how to let your son grow, knowing you will always love him and you are willing to support his decision to spend this time with his dad... even though we both know you are crying inside and cannot believe that you did everything for him and feel betrayed. Its not easy, but you need to figure out what is best for your son even if it is living elsewhere for the time being.

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