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“Can My Ex Move Out-of-State With My Child?”

We live in one of the most interconnected times in human history. One recent Pew Social & Demographic Trends Survey found that most Americans move to a new community at least once in their lives, usually citing economic opportunity, while 4 in 10 have never left the place in which they were born.

In New Jersey, a divorced parent who wishes to relocate with a minor child must first obtain permission from the non-custodial parent or the Court prior to moving.

For years, the so-called “child relocation rule,” determining whether a request for one parent to move away with a child should be granted, was predicated on the 2001 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in Baures v. Lewis. However, that changed in 2017, with the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling in Bisbing v. Bisbing.

Baures Standard vs. Bisbang Standard

N.J.S.A. 9:2-2, the state’s relocation statute, does allow a parent to move with their child if the other parent agrees to it OR the parent obtains a court order. Courts have long been reticent to allow a child to be moved out-of-state with one parent – away from the other. For this reason, the parent who wishes to relocate needs to show the court good cause for the move.

However, the standard eased a bit with the Baures ruling. Before then, courts were mostly concerned with the impact of a move on the child’s welfare. However, the court in Baures noted that new research revealed the well-being of the custodial parent was also in the child’s best interests, and that technological means of long-distance communication and travel had vastly improved since the statute was written. For these reasons, the court revised the standards to be considered, including (but not limited to):

  • The reasons for the move/the other parent’s opposition
  • Whether the child’s education and standard of living would be at least equal to or better
  • Any special needs or talents that are better served at the new location
  • The effect of the move on the child’s relationships with extended family

The simple impact of one parent’s visitation was not enough on its own to deny a good faith request of relocating, so long as it wouldn’t be harmful to the child.

The Bisbing Court ruling, however, changed this in matters that involve joint legal custody. The Court held that the research weighed in Baures wasn’t settled. It noted that while there was a trend at the time for sister courts in other states to recognize custodial parent relocation rights, that hadn’t continued. Thus, the Court updated the “best interests” standard, focusing on things like whether the parents can agree/communicate with one another where the child is concerned, the child’s safety and needs, the extent of the geographical distance and how much quality time can be spent with the child after the move.

The big difference is that the focus is squarely on what’s best for the child rather than what’s best for the parent – the same consideration the Court gives when deciding any custody case.

That doesn’t mean a request to move by a custodial parent will be denied, but it does mean that whatever your position, you’ll need to come to court prepared. Having an experienced East Brunswick child custody attorney at your side who has done countless relocation cases is likely to give you the best possible chance to make your case.

For more information on New Jersey child relocation, contact Family Law Attorney Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder by filling out our contact form or calling (732) 810-0034.

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