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Parental Relocation Reconsideration in New Jersey

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Parental RelocationThe issues with parental relocation in the State of New Jersey involve the tension between a custodial parent’s need or desire to relocate and the other parent’s right to maintain a meaningful relationship with his or her child. Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001) set the precedent for parental relocation in the State of New Jersey. The Supreme Court ruled that the initial burden of the moving party, who is seeking to relocate, must prove two things: first, the existence of a “good-faith-motive” for relocation and second, that “the move will not be inimical to the interest of the child.

In rendering its ruling, the court relied heavily upon social science research which uniformly confirmed the principle that, in general, what is good for the custodial parent is good for the child. The burden of proof lies upon the noncustodial parent who must produce evidence opposing the move as either not in good faith or inimical to the child’s interest. These factors have constituted a barrier in which noncustodial parents cannot overcome.

Since its implementation, Baures has received much criticism from a judicial and nonjudicial standpoint. While the social science underpinnings of Baures cannot be overstated, it is important to note that even prior to the decision, social scientists were questioning the data utilized and the conclusions drawn. The Family Law Executive Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association appointed a special committee to examine relocation law, which resulted in a report recommending a proposed statute to legislatively supersede Baures and its social science underpinnings, in favor of a “best interest of the child” test in removal cases. The proposed bill has been submitted to NJSBA trustees and if approved, will set a new standard in relocation law.

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