New Jersey Supreme Court Breaks Precedent In Recent Ruling

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What can I do to gain custody of my child in North Carolina?”


When it comes to custody issues during and after a divorce, it can be very hard for families to navigate the complexities of two parents, two homes and multiple opposing ideas of what is right. One of the most difficult custody issues to resolve is when one parent decides to relocate out-of-state, something that forces a court to upend the previously agreed to parenting plan.


Holding-child-hand-Charlotte-Mooresville-Child-Custody-Lawyer-300x210What typically happens in a case like this is that the parent who wants to relocate must petition the court to have the custody arrangement reevaluated in light of the changed circumstances. In New Jersey, the rule was that the court had to review any request for a relocation and would focus on whether the move would potentially cause harm to the child. The goal was obviously to avoid allowing a move that would clearly be to the detriment of the child. The assumption behind this rule was that if the custodial parent wished to relocate, the children would be happiest by following the custodial parent, what was good for the parent was seen as being good for the child.


A recent case that began back in 2015 will lead to significant changes in New Jersey when similar issues are dealt with in the future. In that case, a mother with primary custody of her twin daughters sought to relocate and move the girls to Utah, about a year after the divorce with her former husband was finalized. She intended to marry a man in Utah she had begun dating while still married. As part of the divorce settlement, the former husband included language stipulating that written consent would be required from the other parent before a relocation could occur. In this case, the husband said his wife could move to Utah, but that the daughters should stay in New Jersey.


The lower court that initially heard the case did not even bother to hold a hearing on the subject, but instead applied the standard rules. The court determined that the parent seeking to move the children had a good faith reason for the move and that it would not be against the children’s best interests. After the ruling, the mother moved the children to Utah and enrolled them in new schools.


Sometime thereafter, an appellate court reversed the lower court and ordered that a hearing take place. The appellate court said that the lower court should apply a best interests of the child standard when determining whether the move should be allowed. The court sided with the father this time, something that was eventually approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court.


According to the Supreme Court, precedent in New Jersey needs to change. Rather than view the issue as whether the move would harm the kids, the question should instead be re-framed as whether the move is in the best interests of the kids. If the answer is no, then the custodial parent will not be able to relocate with the children. Experts say the decision is an important one as it turns previous standards on their head. It is clear that in New Jersey at least, courts will have to spend more time thinking through the impact moves will have on kids and less time concerned with the needs and desires of the parents.


If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter, then you need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.


About the Author:

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A certified Family-Law Specialist, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state and administrative courts in North Carolina, before the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.





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