Court sets standard for kids in divorce-relocation disputes
Posted August 10
TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey Supreme Court ruling reverses a decades-old law and sets a new standard in the interest of children in divorce-relocation disputes.
The court ruling Tuesday affects cases in which parents have divorced and one wants to leave New Jersey with a child against the wishes of the other parent, according to NJ.com (http://bit.ly/2hN4jRp ).
The old law focused on whether the move would "cause harm" to the child. With the court ruling, divorced parents now must prove the move is in the child's best interest.
The court decision stems from a 2015 case in which a father tried to keep his daughters from moving to Utah with his ex-wife.
Jamie Taormina Bisbing, the primary custodian of her twin daughters, planned to move with them to Utah after getting remarried. Her divorce settlement required she get written consent from her ex-husband, Glenn, before moving. Glenn Bisbing argued that his daughters should remain in New Jersey.
A trial court permitted the girls and their mother to move to Utah, but an appellate court later reversed that decision, saying the "best interests of the child standard" should be applied.
Matheu Nunn, the father's attorney, said the state Supreme Court ruling resolves the issue of why the "best interest" standard was applied to all other custody rulings except for cases where a parent is separated from a child.
An attorney for Jamie Taormina Bisbing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kevin Kelly, a family law professor at Seton Hall Law School, said the ruling puts the burden of proof on the parent who wants to relocate and it reflects a growing trend in New Jersey to consider the rights of both parents.
"I don't think it's landmark or revolutionary, but I think it's sensible," Kelly said.
Jennifer Weisberg Millner, an attorney who took a similar child-relocation case to the state Supreme Court, said that under the old standard, there was a presumption that children were happiest when their custodial parent was the happiest.
"In the intervening years, the social science just didn't bear that out," she said. "Instead, it's been shown a child and children need that continuous contact with both parents."