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Proposed Child Relocation Bill

Senator Peter J. Barnes, III from District 18 (Middlesex) has introduced Senate Bill No. 3252 seeking to codify the standards for a court to consider in determining an application for removal of a child of divorce or separated persons from the jurisdiction. This Bill is supported by the New Jersey State Bar Association. This is an extremely important Bill since it seeks to modify the standards annunciated in the 2001 Supreme Court case of Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001). In Baures, this New Jersey Supreme Court enumerated 12 factors for our court to consider in establishing whether the custodial parent who is seeking a removal of a child out of the state, has met the burden of proving a good faith reason for the move and that the move will not be inimical (“harmful”) to the child’s interests.   The evolution of this test has made it rather easy for a moving parent to meet the required standard since it permitted the initial threshold showing to be based upon any sincere, good faith reason advanced by the petitioner for the move. Typically, this would result in the granting of the application as long as no adverse effect would inure to the child as a result of the move. It is the intention of Senator Barnes’s Bill to modify the Baures factors by placing greater emphasis on the needs of the child. It is this writer’s opinion that this Bill recognizes the evolving social science concluding that there are numerous negative results for children moved a long distance from the non-custodial parent. The proposed bill expressly recognizes the right of the child to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis in a manner consistent with the child’s development, except where the contact is contrary to the child’s best interest. This Bill specifically excludes intrastate moves (i.e. moves within the State of New Jersey). It is also critical to note that a motion filed by a parent seeking to relocate must specify the reasons for the proposed relocation with the child and provide a proposed revised parenting time schedule with the child. The proposed Bill expressly states that the burden of proof shall be on the parent seeking to relocate to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and will not unreasonably adversely impact the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent. This represents a paradign shift in relocation law in the State of New Jersey since the prior standards under Baures only require the moving parent to show that the move was not inimical (i.e. harmful) to the interests of the child. It is critical to emphasize that this Bill requires the moving parent be required to show that the move is in the best interest of the child. Lastly, the Bill provides that no presumption shall be made in favor of or against the relocation of the child.

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