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Ivy League Law Grad Loses Child Custody after Taking Job in New Jersey

In recent years, law school graduates have found it increasingly difficult to find jobs. Only about half of law school grads in the classes of 2011 and 2012 managed to find employment of the type that actually required a law degree (as opposed to a barista job, for example) within nine months of graduation.

Although the figures are less dismal for graduates of top law schools, even those elite new lawyers may find it hard to find jobs. And this can cause family ramifications as well as economic difficulties.

Michelle V. was a 2011 graduate of Cornell Law School who lost custody of her son because she moved to New Jersey to take the only job she could find.

Michelle had gotten divorced during her third year of law school. Nine months after graduation, she received her first job offer - from a trial court judge in New Jersey.

Michelle's joint custody arrangement with her ex-husband, who lived in Ithaca, New York, prohibited relocating the couple's child without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court.

When Michelle accepted the job in New Jersey, her ex-husband denied his consent for her to relocate. Michelle then requested court permission for the move. The child's father objected and sought sole custody of the child, who was then 18 months old.

The Family Law Court allowed the mother to move on a temporary basis to East Windsor, New Jersey, which is about 230 miles from Ithaca.

However, after a two-day hearing, at which Michelle represented herself, the court dismissed her application and awarded sole custody to her ex-husband.

Michelle appealed, and her job hunt was discussed by the court.

The court noted that even though Michelle said she had "no choice" but to relocate, there was little evidence of her job search in the Ithaca area.

(One commentator on the case noted that trying to get a job in Ithaca, where the limited local legal job market has been flooded with other recent Cornell graduates, would be extremely difficult.)

In the end, the appeals court decided to let the child's father retain sole custody.

If you have questions about child custody or other family law issues, contact an experienced family law attorney at the New Jersey Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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