Custody Challenges: New Jersey’s Child Relocation Norm

Cases of child relocation have recently been under revision in New Jersey. Now with the courts looking towards a new norm in ruling on a change of a child’s residence.

For years the courts have applied the same standard when ruling in a case of child relocation.

Setting this former precedent is the case of Baures v. Lewis (BAURES v. LEWIS, 2001). This standard was the guideline in which the courts continually looked towards in reaching a decision.

Found in this ruling, there were only two requirements needed to be met for approval of child relocation.  Firstly it needed to be apparent that there was a good-faith reason for the move to occur. Secondly, it needed to be clear that the move would not be inimical to the interests of the child.  Proving this under the eyes of the court, a parent could move their child out of state after a hearing. This could be achieved even without the consent of the other parent.

Yet as of recently, as determined by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the relocation of a child must now fall in what is found to be the “best interest of the child.” Therefore it no longer would be sufficient to prove just that a move would not be harmful towards a child. Additionally the move needs to prove to be beneficial.

With a new precedent set in the Court ruling in Bisbing v. Bisbing (BISBING v. BISBING III, 2017) on August 8th, 2017, parents in New Jersey will face greater difficulty in relocating both themselves and their children.

Would moving from one state to another for a new job pass this new standard?  What about moving out of state to be with a significant other?  The latter was seen to be an insufficient reason in the case of Bisbing v. Bisbing, resulting in this new residing precedent.

Bisbing v. Bisbing the Facts

Dealing with the custody of their twin daughters, mother Jaime Tarmina Bisbing was named Parent of Primary Residence in the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) made with her ex-husband. Glenn R. Bisbing, III, the father, was named the Parent of Alternate Residence. A provision of the Bisbing’s MSA stipulated that, “neither party shall permanently relocate with the children from the state of New Jersey without prior written consent of the other.”

When the mother sought to relocate to Utah for the purpose of marrying a resident there she had been dating, she implored a permit for consent to move. After a hearing in the Trial Court-Superior Court, the mother was granted permission to relocate her children under the former Baures v. Lewis standard. The trial court viewed the request to move to be both in good faith, nor inimical towards the children.

As the mother moved with the children, the father then appealed this ruling to an Appellate Division panel. Thus the the trial court’s judgement was reversed. Additionally, the panel determined that the father needed to find that the mother had negotiated the custody agreement in bad faith, with the intention of moving all along.  In doing so, the standard of Baures v Lewis should then not be utilized in determining the request for relocation. Instead a higher burden of proof would be enforced, that of proving the move to be in the “best interest of the children”.

The Appellate Division panel directed the case towards the trial court to conduct a new hearing applying this new standard.  Under review of this standard, the mothers request for relocation of her children was then denied.

Upon this change of standard constructed by the Appellate Division panel, the mother argued that the panel had inappropriately created this standard. Reviewed by the Superior Court of New Jersey, the judgment made by the Appellate Division panel was reaffirmed—setting this new standard into place looking towards the best interest of the child.

Implications 

What does this mean for parents now seeking to relocate their family when dealing with a child custody case?  With this ruling from the Supreme Court of New Jersey, parents may now face greater difficulty relocating out of state. Without consent from both parental parties, the courts decide on the approval of relocation or not. A higher burden of proof must now be met for approval in child relocation cases.  Thus insuring the best interests of the children are preserved.

If you are dealing with child custody issues Rebel Brown Law Group, LLC can provide you the legal help you are looking for. We are committed to serving your family rights, while making sure what is best for you and your children is achieved.

marianne brown

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