Understanding Move-Away Cases in New Jersey
Handling a move-away case in New Jersey, where one parent wishes to relocate with a child against the other parent's wishes, involves navigating complex legal terrain. The paramount concern in these cases is the welfare of the child or children involved. Under New Jersey law, the guiding principle in any custody or parenting time dispute is the 'best interest of the child.' Therefore, any parent considering a move must approach the matter with careful consideration and thorough preparation.
Initial Steps for Handling a Move-Away Case
Firstly, if there is an existing custody order, the parent intending to relocate must file a motion with the court for permission to move with the child. This motion should outline the reasons for the relocation and how it will impact the child’s best interests. Common reasons include employment opportunities, proximity to extended family, or educational advantages. The non-relocating parent then has the opportunity to file an opposition to this motion.
Both parties should gather evidence supporting their position. This may include:
- School records and letters from teachers or counselors
- Testimony from child psychologists or social workers
- Proof of employment or housing opportunities at the new location
- A proposed parenting time schedule post-relocation
The relocating parent must demonstrate that the move is in good faith and not intended to disrupt the relationship between the child and the other parent.
The Legal Framework
In a landmark New Jersey case, Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001), the Supreme Court established factors courts must consider when deciding on move-away cases. These include:
- The reasons given for the move
- The reasons given for opposition
- The past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it affects relocation
- Whether the child will receive educational, health, and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here
- Any special needs or talents of the child
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the non-custodial parent and child through suitable visitation arrangements
- The preference of the child if they are of age
- Whether the custodial parent will foster the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent
In 2017, however, the case Bisbing v. Bisbing revised this standard somewhat, focusing more on whether the move represents a substantial change in circumstances affecting the child's best interest.
Negotiating and Mediation
Before reaching court proceedings, parents are encouraged to negotiate and potentially engage in mediation to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties and serves best for their children.
Court Proceedings and Final Orders
If no agreement can be reached, then litigation may be necessary. During court proceedings, both sides will present their arguments and evidence before a judge who will ultimately decide based on all presented factors.
After careful deliberation of each party's submissions and evidence, courts issue final orders regarding custody and visitation that reflect what they believe serves best for the child's welfare and development.