Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Child Relocation At Mother's Request Denied

Hammond v. Hammond, is a 2015 New Jersey Appellate Division case which came out of Bergen County, in which the Plaintiff, Sandra Hammond, appealed from a 2013 Family Court Order that denied her Motion to relocate with her eight year old daughter to Atlanta, Georgia. The Family Court judge who heard the case found that relocating the child would be inimical to her best interests and therefore denied the Plaintiff's Motion for child relocation. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Family Part. The law concerning child relocation as been well established in the state of New Jersey. In this case, since the child was a native of New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 requires court approval to authorize an out of state relocation above one parent's objection. According to Cooper v. Cooper, 99 N.J. 42, 50 (1984), the aforementioned statute was created to ensure the preservation of the post-divorce child-parent relationship as it pertains to the child and the non-custodial parent. The Plaintiff is the mother and custodial parent of the child at issue, and therefore her request to relocate with her child in the face of the Defendant's challenge is governed by a two-part test which was established in Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91, 122 (2001). The test under Baures, directs that child removal be permitted where the preponderance of the evidence reflects that that custodial parent has a good faith reason for the move and that the move will not be inimical to the child's best interests. Baures, 167 N.J. at 118, 122. Further, the court in Baures discerned twelve (12) additional factors that a court should consider in determining whether or not to grant a removal. These factors include, in part, the reasons for the move; the reasons given for the opposition; the child's educational and health opportunities at the new location; a proposed visitation and communication schedule for the non-custodial parent; and the child's preference if he/she is of age; amongst others. On appeal, the Plaintiff argued that the Family Court did not properly apply the above mentioned test in evaluating her case. According to the Appellate Court, the Family Court adequately applied the Baures test in reaching its decision to deny the Plaintiff's application. The court found that the proposed relocation "considerably places the parties' child in a position where she will be deprived of [a] strong family unit and support system in order to move to Georgia where she has no immediate family and no more attractive opportunities." In addition, the court found that the Plaintiff's support evidence reflected only a slight difference in the cost of living between New Jersey and Georgia. Further, the Defendant is actively involved in the parties' daughter's life and enjoyed routine unplanned visits as well as shared a very close relationship with him and his extended family. Therefore, a relocation would result in a "considerable change" to the girl's relationship with her father. The court also determined, based upon evidence submitted by the Defendant, that due to his job as a police officer, the relocation and proposed visitation schedule were not feasible because of distance, financial limitations, and time factors. Overall, the Appellate Court agreed with the Family Court that the potential benefits of the relocation were "not substantial enough to jeopardize [the daughter's] relationship with both her parents and extended family." If your ex-spouse is attempting to relocate with your children or you would like to relocate with your children and expect that your ex-spouse will object to the move it is critical that you consult an attorney. Disputes regarding child relocation can be of the most important in family law because of the substantial impact that decisions regarding these issues will have upon the lives of the parties and their children. For more information on child relocation, custody and visitation, parenting time, divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and is in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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