On Tuesday, in a landmark decision THAT WILL IMPACT ALL NEW JERSEY PARENTS SEEKING TO RELOCATE, the New Jersey Supreme Court modified the Appellate Division and created a new standard of review when a parent seeks to remove the children to another state.
The conflict arose when the mother sought to relocate to Utah, the home state of her (now) husband. The father objected to the removal of the parties’ two children. Upon the mother’s application for relocation, the trial court authorized the move. The father appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that if father could prove the mother negotiated the parties’ custody agreement in bad faith, the court should use the best interests of the child, not the standard set forth under Baures v. Lewis. If the father could not prove bad faith, the mother would nevertheless have to prove a substantial unanticipated change in circumstance prior to moving forward under Baures.
Paul H. Townsend, of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, L.L.C., the firm who represented the mother beginning with the initial relocation application, successfully argued the case for the mother, causing the Supreme Court to modify the Appellate Division’s arbitrary, subjective and unworkable standard. The Supreme Court found “special justification” to depart from the Baures standard, finding Baures was no longer supported by social science or the trend in the law.
Attorney Paul Townsend stated “The Bisbing decision is a victory for all parents in that it modifies the Appellate Division’s subjective and frankly unworkable standards; that the non-moving party must prove that there was ‘bad faith’ in the negotiation of the agreement, and if they are unable to do so, then the moving party must prove a ‘substantial and unanticipated change in circumstance’. This decision focuses the court on where it should be always, the best interests of the children.”
Moving forward, the best interests of the child standard will be used across the board for all cases involving parents with joint legal custody. Mr. Townsend is available to discuss the ramifications of this monumental case and can be reached at (973) 539-0075 for comment and family law counsel.