SENATE, No. 3252

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED NOVEMBER 16, 2015

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  PETER J. BARNES, III

District 18 (Middlesex)

Senator  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Codifies standards for court to consider in determining application for removal of child of divorced or separated persons from jurisdiction.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning removal of unemancipated minor child by custodial parent and supplementing Title 9 of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    This act shall be known and may be cited as the “New Jersey Relocation of Children Act.” 

 

     2.    As used in this act, the following words shall have the following meaning:

     “Child” means an unemancipated individual who is younger than 18 years of age.

     “Child-custody determination” means a judgment, decree, or other order, whether permanent, temporary, initial or otherwise providing for the legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, or visitation with respect to a child.  A “child custody determination” does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligation of an individual.

     “Court” means an entity authorized under the law to establish, enforce, or modify a determination of child custody or parenting time.

     “Domestic violence” shall have the same meaning as set forth in subsection a. of section 3 of P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-19), the "Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991."

     “Parent” means:  a. a natural parent; b. an adoptive parent; or c. a person acting as a parent, other than a parent, who: (1) has physical custody of the child or has had physical custody for a period of six consecutive months, including any temporary absence, within one year immediately before the commencement of proceeding under this act; and (2) has been awarded legal custody by a court or claims a right to legal custody under the law of this State.

     “Parenting time” means the time a parent spends with a child, regardless of the custodial designation regarding the child.

     “Motion” means a request for relief, including any and all non-dissolution applications seeking the relief described herein.

     “Relocate” means a permanent move out of the State of New Jersey and specifically excludes intrastate moves.

 

     3.    Jurisdiction.

     The Superior Court of New Jersey shall have jurisdiction to address a parent’s motion requesting to relocate with a child as well as any objections to such a motion.

 

     4.    Motion objecting to or requesting relocation.

     a.     Unless there is consent to the relocation by the non-relocating parent, a parent seeking permission to relocate with a child shall file a motion with the court seeking permission, prior to the relocation, and remain in New Jersey with the child unless and until that parent receives permission to relocate.

     b.    A motion filed by a parent seeking to relocate must specify the reasons for the proposed relocation with the child and a proposed revised parenting time schedule with the child.  The burden of proof shall be on the parent seeking to relocate to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and will not unreasonably adversely impact the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent.

     c.     A parent who objects to a proposed relocation of a child or a revised parenting plan may file a motion or cross motion objecting to the relocation.  The motion must specify the reasons for the objection.  This provision shall not be interpreted as placing the burden of proof in a relocation matter on the non-relocating party. The burden of proof shall be on the relocating parent, as detailed hereafter.

     d.    If a parent has been subject to domestic violence or if a child has been subject to child abuse or neglect, the parent shall not be required to participate in alternative dispute resolution.

 

     5.    Best interests; no presumption in favor of or against relocation.

     a.     The court must determine whether relocation is in the best interests of the child. The burden to prove this shall be on the parent seeking to relocate.

     b.    No presumption shall be made in favor of or against relocation of the child.

 

     6.    Factors considered.

     When making a determination whether to grant an application for removal pursuant to R.S.9:2-2, the court shall consider the best interests of the child, and in doing so, shall consider the following factors:

     a.     The right of the child to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis in a manner consistent with the child’s development, except if the contact is contrary to the child’s best interests;

     b.    The views of the child regarding relocation if the child is of appropriate age and maturity;

     c.     The parties’ proposals for the practical arrangements for relocation, including accommodation, schooling, and employment;

     d.    The reasons for seeking or opposing relocation;

     e.     Any history of domestic violence or abuse, whether physical or psychological;

     f.     The history of the family and particularly the continuity and quality of past and current care and contact arrangements, including any prior relocation;

     g.    Pre-existing custody and parenting time determinations;

     h.    The impact of granting or refusing relocation of the child, paying particular attention to the child’s extended family, education, and social life;

     i.     The nature of the inter-parental relationships and the commitment of the applicant to support and facilitate the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent after relocation;

     j.     Whether the parties’ proposals for parenting time after relocation are realistic, with particular attention given to the cost to the family and the burden to the child;

     k.    The enforceability of parenting time provisions ordered as a condition of relocation in the state of destination;

     l.     The issues of mobility for family members, both seeking and opposing relocation;

     m.   The economic impact of relocation on both parents;

     n.    Any special medical, mental or educational needs of the child and the likelihood that those needs can be met at the same or better level in the state of destination than in the state of New Jersey; and

     o.    Any other factor as the court may deem relevant under the circumstances.

 

     7.    Remedies.  In determining an application for removal the court shall have the following options:

     a.     Permit or prohibit the removal application on a temporary or permanent basis after a fact-finding plenary hearing;

     b.    Order the return of a child who was removed without authorization of the court pursuant to the provisions of this section;

     c.     Modify custody, visitation, or parenting time under the provisions of R.S.9:2-4;

     d.    Order either party to provide reasonable security at the court’s discretion in order to guarantee the return of the child;

     e.     Allocate the reasonable actual or projected costs incurred by the noncustodial parent to exercise parenting time with the child;

     f.     Allocate payment of attorneys’ fees and costs, and any experts’ fees and costs between the parties;

     g.    Appoint an expert as may be appropriate;

     h.    Allocate transportation costs or modify child support; and

     i.     Such other relief as the court may deem just and equitable under the circumstances.

 

     8.    Priority for case management.  A case management conference on a motion seeking permission to relocate or objecting to relocation shall be set within 30 days upon the conclusion of the hearing on the motion for relocation or objection to relocation.

     9.    This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply to any application for removal filed on or after the effective date. 

 

 

STATEMENT

     R.S.9:2-2, referred to in case law as the removal statute, governs the custody of children of divorced of separated parents, and their removal from the state by a custodial parent seeking to relocate to another jurisdiction.  In Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001), the New Jersey Supreme Court enumerated twelve factors for a court to consider in establishing whether the plaintiff, in seeking to relocate with the child, has met the burden of proving a good faith intent in pursuing the move, and that the move will not be harmful to the child’s interest.  These factors in turn, evolved out of case law development which established that any sincere, good faith reason advanced by a petitioner for the move would suffice, and that removal should not be denied as long as no adverse effect would inure to the child as a result of the move.  It is the intention of this bill to modify the Buares factors by placing greater emphasis on the needs of the child.  The factors proposed by this bill are as follows:

     a.     The right of the child to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis in a manner consistent with the child’s development, except if the contact is contrary to the child’s best interests;

     b.    The views of the child regarding relocation if the child is of appropriate age and maturity;

     c.     The parties’ proposals for the practical arrangements for relocation, including accommodation, schooling, and employment;

     d.    The reasons for seeking or opposing relocation;

     e.     Any history of domestic violence or abuse, whether physical or psychological;

     f.     The history of the family and particularly the continuity and quality of past and current care and contact arrangements, including any prior relocation;

     g.    Pre-existing custody and parenting time determinations;

     h.    The impact of granting or refusing relocation of the child, paying particular attention to the child’s extended family, education, and social life;

     i.     The nature of the inter-parental relationships and the commitment of the applicant to support and facilitate the relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent after relocation;

     j.     Whether the parties’ proposals for parenting time after relocation are realistic, with particular attention given to the cost to the family and the burden to the child;

     k.    The enforceability of parenting time provisions ordered as a condition of relocation in the state of destination;

     l.     The issues of mobility for family members, both seeking and opposing relocation;

     m.   The economic impact of relocation on both parents;

     n.    Any special medical, mental or educational needs of the child and the likelihood that those needs can be met at the same or better level in the state of destination than in the state of New Jersey; and

     o.    Any other factor as the court may deem relevant under the circumstances.