Bisbing v. Bisbing - New Guidance on Relocation

Child custody orders are crafted based on what is in the best interest of the child or children.  However, as every parent knows, what is best today for a child could very well change next week, next month, or next year.  When situations change, a parent can file a request to modify the custody order to reflect what is best for the child under the current situation.  One common way this happens is when the custodial parent wants to relocate with the children.  A recent case has changed the way New Jersey courts are to handle issues of parental relocation.

In Bisbing v. Bisbing, the parties entered into a marital settlement agreement at the time of the divorce.  Pursuant to the agreement, the mother was the primary residential custodian of the parties’ daughters.  The agreement also stated that “neither party shall permanently relocate with the children from the state of New Jersey without the prior written consent of the other.”  A year after the divorce, the wife gave notice of her intention to relocate to Utah to marry another man.  Of note, the wife had already been dating this man at the time she signed the marital settlement agreement.  The husband opposed her request to take the children to Utah.  The wife then filed a motion asking for the court’s permission to relocate with the children.  The husband countered that wife had negotiated the agreement in bad father, alleging she knew she planned to relocate even when she negotiated the MSA.  The trial court determined the wife had negotiated in good faith and allowed wife to relocate with the children to Utah.  Wife promptly did so and enrolled the children in school there.

The appellate court ultimately reversed the trial court’s decision.  In the past, the Baures standard had applied to these cases.  Under Baures, a custodial parent wishing to relocate only had to establish that the move was not inimical to the child’s best interests and that there was a  good faith reason for the relocation.  The court here determined that was not appropriate.  Rather, the court ruled that the best interest standard should apply.  This means that the relocating custodial parent will now have a more difficult time establishing cause to relocate.

If you are facing a relocation case, you need an experienced attorney. We have helped many clients with their custody cases, including relocation. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your case.
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