Relocation after Bisbing v. Bisbing

Over the last 30 plus years, there have been changes to the showing that a custodial parent had to make before being permitted to relocate permanently out of New Jersey. At one point, the burden was to show that there was a real advantage to the move. Years later, the “real advantage” burden was changed to permitting the custodial parent to relocate so long as it did not interfere with the best interests of the child. In 2001, the showing was reduced by Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001) requiring that the custodial parent present a good faith reason for the move, and that the move was not inimical to the child’s best interest.

Last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Baures holding in a stunning move establishing a new legal standard that may have just equaled the playing field for non-custodial parents (or Parents of Alternate Residence). Now being the custodial parent (or Parent of Primary Residence) no longer carries the day in relocation cases. Whether this will make it very difficult, if not impossible in some cases, for a parent to relocate with a child out of New Jersey, this remains to be seen.

Pursuant to Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309 (2017) a court will now employ a best interest analysis in relocation cases and examine the relevant factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c). Among the issues that will be examined, the Court will look at the settlement agreement entered into by the parties (particularly if one party negotiated in bad faith knowing they wanted to relocate after the divorce but not disclosing it); school-related issues; the parenting time schedule and the impact that the proposed move will have; the child’s connection to third parties/family in this state; issues involving the child’s health; religious issues; the extra-curricular activities the child is involved in, and a myriad of other factors.

Before Bisbing, the law in this area seem to focus more on the custodial parent’s right to move on with their lives after divorce. Now, the focus is squarely on the child with issues pertaining to the parent (i.e. getting remarried to someone out of state, getting a job out-of-state) taking somewhat of a backseat. It remains to be seen what the real impact of Bisbing will have on relocation cases, however, this is all the more reason for you to choose the right New Jersey divorce lawyer to help you navigate through the process. Every case involving removal is extremely fact-sensitive and now more than ever it appears that being thorough is the name of the game.

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