This summer saw important changes to New Jersey’s laws on child relocation. On August 8, 2017, the state supreme court overturned a 16-year judicial precedent that had equated the best interests of the child with the best interests of the custodial parent. As a result of the change, custodial parents who want to move out of New Jersey with the child will now need to prove that the move is the best option for the child – even if a new job or new spouse awaits out of state.
Why Did the New Jersey Supreme Court Change Its Mind?
Until this summer, a New Jersey custodial parent’s ability to move out of state with a child was controlled by the state supreme court case of Baures v. Lewis. In that case, the court held that custodial parents could move to another state with their children so long as the move was:
- Made in good faith
- Not against the best interests of the child
Essentially, the court held that if the move was good for the custodial parent, the move was probably good for the child. For instance, moving to another state for a new job opportunity or to join a new spouse would bring financial and emotional stability to the family, which would ultimately benefit the child. At least, this was the opinion of the social scientists that the court cited in its decision. The other rationale for the court’s decision was its belief that it was joining a nationwide trend towards giving custodial parents a greater say in where to move children.
New Jersey Now Focuses Primarily on the Child’s Best Interests in Relocation Cases
It was in this summer’s case of Bisbing v. Bisbing that the supreme court decided to overturn Baures. The case of Bisbing involved the question of whether a New Jersey divorced mother could move to Utah with her twin daughters to be with her new husband, despite an agreement with her ex-husband that he should enjoy “considerable parenting time.” Even though the relocation to Utah would undoubtedly break the agreement, the trial judge who first heard the case approved the move by applying the Baures standard.
The ex-husband filed an appeal that ended up before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The court reconsidered its reasoning in Baures, noting that “the vigorous scholarly debate among social scientists who have studied the impact of relocation on children following divorce reveals that relocation may affect children in many different ways.” Thus, a relocation that benefits the custodial parent might not always benefit the child, who must leave behind a neighborhood, a school, friends, and of course, family members.
Furthermore, the court stated that “the progression in the law toward recognition of a custodial parent’s presumptive right to relocate with children, anticipated by this Court in Baures, has not materialized.” Indeed, most states require the custodial parent to demonstrate that the move would be in the best interests of the concerned child. For these reasons, the court abandoned the Baures standard, and returned to the “best interest” test applied by most states when it comes to relocation.
Prepare Your Relocation Case With the Help of a New Jersey Custody Lawyer
If you’re a custodial parent who wants to move out of state for a new job or to be with a new partner, you will need to prove to the court that your child will benefit from the move. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you will stand a much better chance of making your case. The Jersey City custody lawyers at Bhatt Law Group are ready to gather the evidence and make the arguments to show that moving out of state will be in the best interests of your child. Call us today at (201) 798-8000 to schedule your case consultation.