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New Jersey Changes Stance On Child Moving Laws, Best Interests First

Happy young family having fun running on beach at sunset

Somewhere around 41% of all first-time marriages end in divorce; it’s just one of the facts of married life in the current day and age. However, the laws regarding marriage, divorce, and child custody are not set in stone.

In early August, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed nearly two decades of law in a decision that sets a new standard when it comes to the relocation of children in divorce cases. The matter of the law change was whether or not a parent must prove that moving a child out of New Jersey without the other parent’s permission is in the child’s best interest.

A court case in 2015 ruled that the divorced parent who wanted to leave the state must prove it is what’s best for the child. The child’s interests were considered in this ruling, but the focus was whether or not the move would “cause harm” to the child.

The case in question involved a father who fought to keep his daughters from moving with his ex-wife to Utah. The attorney in charge of the case, Matheu D. Nunn, said that the most recent ruling would have far-reaching effects.

“It is my sincere hope that our lower courts will apply this decision in a way that recognizes that Skype, FaceTime, and text messaging cannot replace the father who coaches his child’s soccer team after work or the mother who gets up for work two hours earlier than she needs to so she can participate in her child’s 6 a.m. hockey practice,” said Nunn, a partner at Einhorn Harris in Denville.

The ruling makes New Jersey part of the majority of states that utilize the “best interests” test in terms of a child’s relocation. And while it certainly is a big move forward, with a great deal of significance, some attorneys and experts don’t believe it’ll be the landmark case others claim it will be.

One such individual is Kevin Kelly, a family law professor at Seton Hall Law School.

“I don’t think it’s landmark or revolutionary, but I think it’s sensible,” Kelly said.