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New standard for relocating kids after divorce

Raising kids after a divorce is often more challenging for both parents, and this is especially true when parents disagree about something major like where a child should live. A ruling from the Supreme Court of New Jersey will influence what happens when the custodial parent wants to move away from the state.

If one parent does not want a child or children to leave New Jersey, then the other parent must prove that relocation is in a child's best interests. Previously, the law considered whether a move would harm a child. This means a parent who wants to relocate now has the burden of proof to show that this will be positive for children.

The ruling was issued as part of a 2015 family law case. The primary custodian of two twin daughters wanted to move to Utah with her kids when she remarried, and the father thought his daughters should not move. The couple's divorce settlement required written consent to relocate with the girls before moving. A trial court initially allowed the move, but an appellate court later decided the standard of what is in a child's best interests should be applied and reversed the decision.

A child may not necessarily be happiest where a custodial parent would be happiest, and New Jersey child custody laws have seen updates to ensure the rights of both parents are protected. Typically, it is best for children to have a steady, ongoing relationship with both parents. Most courts will agree with this principle, except in cases where there has been a pattern of domestic violence or substance abuse on the part of one of the parents.

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