Removal is the label given to cases involving a parent’s request to move out of state with the child(ren). These are often gut-wrenching cases because if the parent seeking to remove the child from New Jersey is successful, the other parent’s relationship with the child will inevitably and unavoidably change dramatically. A move to another state (or perhaps a foreign country) will severely impact that parent child relationship.
There is an enormous difference between seeing the child on weekends and during the week, attending soccer games and dance recitals, helping with homework and nursing a sick child, and being with the child only a few weeks in the summer and maybe during winter break.
On the other hand, a successful defense, which thwarts the move, may impact that parent’s job or career opportunities, the ability to care for aging
parents, or even remarriage plans. Unlike most other issues in family law, this one does not readily lend itself to compromise. Either the child moves
away or he doesn’t.
Under New Jersey law, divorced or separated parents cannot move a child permanently out of state without getting the other parent’s consent (which is relatively rare) or a court order authorizing the move. The parent requesting permission to move has the initial burden to prove that there is a good faith reason for the move (e.g., not just to undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child) and that the move would not be detrimental to the child’s best interests. In Baures v. Lewis the New Jersey Supreme Court listed twelve factors that trial judges must consider.
If this initial burden is met, the parent opposing the move must prove that the motivation for the move is not a good faith one or that the move would be detrimental to the child’s interests.
Frequently these cases involve an element of urgency. A job offer may only remain open for a limited time. A new school year may be fast approaching. A date for a remarriage may have been set. In these instances the Court must balance the need for a speedy resolution with the need for a just result. Simply because the parent who wants to move is in a hurry doesn’t mean the other parent’s rights to defend against the removal of his child should be compromised. Conversely, inordinate delays (strategic or otherwise) should not result in victory for the opposing parent simply because the job offer has lapsed or the new school year has begun.
These cases involve the delicate balancing of multifaceted issues that are very important to human beings – in this case, parents and children. There is a lot at stake and they should be handled with the utmost care.