It is not uncommon for divorced parents to relocate within New Jersey with the children. In the vast majority of cases, parents are able to resolve such matters as where the children will continue to attend school; however, there are, from time to time, circumstances where courts are called upon to determine the issue.
One such case, Beller v. Beller, was decided by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court on January 27, 2014. In Beller, Mr. Beller opposed his former wife’s enrollment of the parties’ two children in the school district where she had moved after the divorce. The proceedings began when Ms. Beller filed a motion seeking permission to transfer the children from the Denville school system to the Roxbury district. The trial judge permitted the transfer, a ruling from which Mr. Beller appealed. Mr. Beller stated that the court had failed to apply the factors contained in the Appellate Division’s 1999 decision of Levine v. Levine; i.e. that there was a lack of proof that the child’s best interests was not being served in her present school system.
The Appellate Division made short work of Mr. Beller’s appeal by ruling that Levine was inapplicable. Instead, the Court relied upon the testimony of the parties’ parent coordinator that, in her opinion, Mr. Beller had attempted to “alienate” Ms. Beller from the Denville school system, that Mr. Beller was in the process of a divorce from his new wife and that his circumstances were “less stable” than those of Ms. Beller. The trial judge also interviewed the children which he obliquely referenced in his decision. Based on the above, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial judge’s ruling that the children be permitted to enroll in the Roxbury school system.
Beller is a particularly interesting case since it does not appear anyone testified that the children’ best interests were not being served in the Denville school system. Levine remains the legal standard despite the above outcome.