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Child Relocation – Agreement Under Duress?

Child Relocation – Agreement Under Duress?

The NJ Appellate Division case, Briseno v. Burton, focuses on the issue of child relocation during a child custody dispute and whether or not a litigant signed a consent order under duress. In this unopposed appeal from the New Jersey Superior Court, the Defendant appeals a court order that confirmed a consent order that allowed the Plaintiff to relocate to Florida with the parties’ children. The Defendant seeks to invalidate the consent order because he claims to have signed the order while under duress, threats, and coercion. Further, the appeal alleges that the Defendant was not represented by counsel and that under N.J. Court Rule 4:50-1(f), if the agreement was upheld, the result would be unjust, oppressive, and inequitable. The parties in this action were never married and had known each other for about six years. Together they had two children. In 2010, after their relationship had ended, the parties began to have discussions about the possibility of the Plaintiff relocating with the children to California. In October of 2011, the Plaintiff gave the Defendant a consent agreement that detailed this relocation. The Defendant, upon receiving advice from counsel, declined to the sign the agreement because he disagreed with the proposed child support provisions contained in the agreement. In April of 2012, the Plaintiff provided the Defendant with yet another consent agreement which, if signed by him, would allow her to relocate with the children to Coral Springs, Florida. Again, the Defendant refused to sign the agreement. Finally, on June 8, 2012, the Plaintiff once again gave the Defendant another draft of the consent order to which the parties spent weeks negotiating the terms. On June 28, 2012, the Defendant signed the consent agreement on the condition that the Plaintiff stop pursing the restraining order against him that she had instituted. The New Jersey Appellate Division found the Defendant’s appeal to be unpersuasive. According to the Court, the Defendant was well aware of the Plaintiff’s intentions to relocate to Florida, as he was in possession of the proposed agreement for weeks and he even participated in modifying the language of the agreement. In addition, the Court reasoned that the Defendant had plenty of time to seek out the advice of an attorney. Therefore, the Court held that the Defendant’s decision to sign the proposed consent agreement was of his own free will and was not done under duress. Furthermore, the Court noted that this case did not represent a case of exceptional circumstances and the fact that the Defendant felt, afterwards, that the terms of the agreement were not in his favor does not give rise to a reason to invalidate the order. If you anticipate that you will become involved in a custody dispute or a dispute concerning child relocation it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about child custody, parenting time, alimony or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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