In one of the biggest custody cases handed down in years, the New Jersey Supreme Court today in Jaime Taormina Bisbing v. Glenn R. Bisbing, III introduced a new standard for parents seeking relocation with children out of the state of New Jersey.
Contested relocation matters in New Jersey are governed by N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 which provides in relevant part that minor children of parents divorced, separated or living separate… “shall not be removed out of its jurisdiction against their own consent, if of suitable age to signify the same, nor while under that age without the consent of both parents, unless the court, upon cause shown, shall otherwise order”.
For the past 16 years the seminal case for relocations matters in New Jersey was Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91, 118-20 (2001), which provided that a parent with primary custody seeking to relocate children out of state over the objection of the other parent must demonstrate only that there is a good-faith reason for an interstate move and that it “will not be inimical to the child’s interests.” In other words, if a custodial parent could show that she/he had a good faith reason for the move and that the move would not significantly harm the child, then the move would be approved.
The Court in Bisbing, has now essentially struck down the Baures standard and instead has adopted a much higher “best interest” standard. While Baures provided that a custodial parent had to only show that the move would “not be inimical to the child’s interests” the Court in Bisbing is now requiring that the parent who wishes to relocated show that the move is in the child’s best interest under the custody statute (N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c)), which provides that both parent’s right shall be equal and provides a non-exclusive list of factors for the court to consider, which can be found here.
So what does this all mean? Like any recently published precedential case, the full impact of the decision cannot be properly determined until the lower courts apply the new standard. But, preliminarily it appears this ruling makes it more difficult for custodial parents who have joint legal custody to relocate out of state when the other parent does not consent to same. On the flip side, this case strengthens the ability of non-custodial parents to block or prevent a relocation of a minor child. While relocation cases often involved custody experts, this new heighten standard will almost certainly lead to an increase need for expert testimony to prove that such a move would be in the child’s best interest.
What is clear is that relocation matters have now become more complicated and the need for experienced counsel to help parents navigate these difficult cases is more important than ever. If you are contemplating relocating out of the state of New Jersey or you are in a situation were your former spouse is seeking to relocate out of state, contact our offices today.