The New Jersey Supreme Court has made a significant change that will have a lasting impact on relocation cases in the state. Bisbing vs. Bisbing, the case in question, was decided after a long court battle.
I represented Mr. Bisbing in trial court. The adverse decision we received was reversed in the Appellate Division.
The case involved Jamie Bisbing and Glenn Bisbing. The couple divorced when their twin daughters were just seven years old. The plaintiff, Jaime Bisbing, was named as the primary residence of the daughters during the settlement agreement.
The agreement included a clause that required:
- Neither party to permanently relocate out of state with the children without the prior written consent of the other.
Jaime notified her husband, just months after the couple’s divorce, that she intended to move to Utah with a man she had been dating. She requested an order to allow the couple’s twin daughters to be relocated to Utah.
The trial court followed Baures v. Lewis as the standard in the court’s decision.
Baures v. Lewis requires that the parent who wants to relocate children out of state, if they maintain primary custody of the children, only needs to prove that the move is out of good-faith when it’s interstate.
The case also includes that the move “will not be inimical to the child’s interests.”
The trial court found in favor of Jaime Bisbing on the following conditions:
- Bisbing was allowed schedule visitation
- Bisbing was allowed to regularly communicate with his children
The defendant appealed the decision, forcing the case into the Appellate Division.
Appellate Division Reverses the Trial Court’s Judgement
The Appellate Division’s panel decided to look at the original custody agreement and take it into consideration. The panel found that if the plaintiff negotiated the agreement in bad faith – remember, the agreement came months before her decision to move – that “inimical to the child’s interests” should not apply.
The panel found that if the agreement was made in bad faith that the plaintiff would be required to provide a higher burden of proof.
Changes to the Standard
Relocation standards will forever be different in New Jersey under the decision. Prior to the Bisbing case, the non-custodial parent was the parent who needed to prove that the move wasn’t in the best interest of the child.
After the Bisbing case, the burden of proof is shifted to the moving party.
Jaime Bisbing will now have to prove that the move is in the best interest of her twin daughters. This makes it significantly less taxing for Glenn Bisbing moving forward.
A debate can be made that the law has been erroneous for quite some time. Several attorneys have stated that the law should have been changed years ago. The proof, when a relocation occurs, should have been a burden to the parent that chose to relocate.
The case also changes the focus to the child’s best interest.
The previous relocation standards focused on whether or not the move would harm the children. Bisbing vs. Bisbing will also eliminate disputes, which as seen in this case, were made due to bad faith agreements.