WILL ANY CHILDREN EVER BE ABLE TO LEAVE NJ AGAIN?
Ever since the Seminole case of Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309 (2017), New Jersey relocation law has been in a state of almost mandatory best interest hearings “ in all contested relocation disputes…”. In Bisbing, the Court held that a best-interests analysis is required “in all contested relocation disputes in which the parents share legal custody – whether the custody arrangement designates a parent of primary residence and a parent of alternate residence, or provides for equally shared custody.” Further, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that a relocation decision when the parents share legal custody should be treated in the same manner as the original custody determination. To further compound the problem, most recently in the case of [A.J. v. R.J., 461 N.J. Super. at 176] a case of intrastate relocation post-judgment the Appellate Division held.
In cases where a court exercises its authority pursuant to R. 1:10-3 and 5:3-7(a)(6), it must make findings under N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 that the sanction imposed is in the best interests of the children. We further hold the factors in Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91, 770 A.2d 214 (2001) no longer apply when a court is addressing an intra-state relocation, and instead, pursuant to Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309, 166 A.3d 1155 (2017), the court must apply N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.
The area of New Jersey relocation law, whether it be intra or interstate relocation, will continue to demand a best-interest evaluation and as such will be difficult if not impossible to prepare for and to schedule with the court. The consequences of this state of almost mandatory “best interests” analysis and its impact upon the already-jammed court docket has yet to be seen by the family practitioner. But it certainly appears that all relocation matters are going to need a best-interest hearing under Bisbing. Which in turn leads us to the question: with the family courts as backed up as they are and with forensic evaluations taking as much as one year, will any child ever be able to leave New Jersey again? With the way the system is operating now, I believe the answer could be no!