Implications of Bisbing v. Bisbing on Relocation of Parents with Children Outside of New Jersey
Bisbing v. Bisbing was a landmark case decided in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The case resulted from Ms. Bisbing trying to relocate her children to Utah, which Mr. Bisbing did not want since the children had previously been raised in New Jersey. Bisbing v. Bisbing was a long and drawn-out case that shed some light on standards within New Jersey related to how courts enforce a parent’s request to move children out of state away from the second parent and the importance they place on children having an inherent best interest with being close to both of their parents.
A Brief Overview of the Facts of Bisbing v. Bisbing
The parties were married on August 27, 2005. They separated in 2013 and executed the MSA on March 8, 2014, through utilizing a mediator. The FJOD that incorporated the MSA was entered into on April 16, 2014. The Agreement included a relocation provision, which was at issue in this case. About twelve months after signing the Agreement, Ms. Bisbing filed a motion following N.J.S.A 9:2-2 seeking an order to allow her to permanently relocate with the children to Utah. On April 24, 2015, Ms. Bisbing was granted her request without first conducting a plenary hearing on the request. Mr. Bisbing filed an appeal to the decision and on June 29, 2015, the appellate division dismissed his appeal for a Stay as improper. Mr. Bisbing then filed an emergent motion seeking a Stay of the initial relocation order, which was subsequently denied on July 7, 2015. Ms. Bisbing continued her plans to relocate to Utah and Mr. Bisbing still did not submit the required parenting time schedule. The combination of the initial relocation order and relocation parenting time order created a new opportunity to appeal and Mr. Bisbing appealed and sought a Stay on July 22, 2015, which was denied on July 28, 2015. Upon the denial of this claim, a dispute began for an entire school year about where the children would attend school. The result was the case being remanded to the trial court to determine the “best interests” standard on the issue of relocation and the issue of counsel fees.
Important Factors Discussed in the Case
One of the primary facts at issue in the case was the application of the standard set in Baures v. Lewis by the trial court, which set forth a two-prong test to determine whether it was reasonable to relocate children out of state away from the second parent. The two-prong test included (1) there existed a good faith reason for the relocation; and (2) the relocation “will not be inimical to the child’s interests.” Subsequently, the Court in Bisbing applied a thirteen factor test including the following: (1) the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child; (2) the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantial abuse; (3) the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings; (4) the history of domestic violence, if relevant; (5) the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent; (6) the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision; (7) the needs of the child; (8) the stability of the home environment offered; (9) the quality and continuity of the child’s education; (10) the fitness of the parents; (11) the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes; (12) the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation; and (13) the age and number of children. Based on the analysis of these factors, it was determined that the best interest of the children was to be in proximity of both of their parents rather than residing cross country.
How Bisbing v. Bisbing Implicates Parents Trying to Move Out of State with their Children
One of the primary implications of Bisbing v. Bisbing is how courts in New Jersey will interpret the “best interests” of the children. One of the fundamental issues at issue, in this case, was whether the “best interests” of the children were related to their happiness and that they wanted to reside in Utah or whether there was another “best interest” that involved them being closely located to both of their parents. Going forward, there has to be a clear demonstration that relocating of one parent out of state is for a lucrative employment position or due to obligations to care for a sick relative, for example. The circumstances have to be necessary and unavoidable, rather than just being remarried alone. The implications of Bisbing v. Bisbing will greatly shape how courts analyze relocation requests while balancing the wishes of the children and the “best interests” of them being raised in proximity to both of their parents.
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