Articles Posted in Child Custody

children on beachIn a recent New Jersey child custody case, a couple separated in 2008, after a period in which the wife claimed there was domestic violence. The marriage ended in a consent judgment of divorce, although the couple couldn’t resolve their parenting and custody issues before the judgment was entered.

In 2009, the mother contacted the child services division, making claims about the father’s improper and sexual conduct. The Division investigated to see whether the father sexually abused the child, and a temporary restraining order was put in place. The father’s parenting time was suspended.

The court dismissed the domestic violence allegations. However, the wife successfully got an order to show cause so that the judge could review the sexual abuse investigation. The judge reviewed and got rid of the restraints, ordering that the father could resume parenting time. However, the Division told the father that the investigation found the son had been sexually abused, and the father was to blame. The finding of abuse related to one incident was overturned, but a second finding of abuse as to another incident stayed in place.

Continue reading

father and childIn an unpublished New Jersey appellate decision, a father appealed from an order allowing a mother to relocate with their two kids to Texas. The divorced couple had two daughters, who were nine and 13 when the mother decided to relocate. The parties had joint legal custody of the kids, with the mother as the parent of primary residence under the final divorce judgment. The father was the parent of alternate residence. The consent order in the divorce judgment had also provided for the father’s parenting time, even if the mother relocated.

In 2014, the mother asked for the court’s permission to relocate with the kids to Texas. The court asked for a diagnostic evaluation. The doctor reported the mother had a good-faith reason for the move, since her new husband and his kids lived in the other state, and his business was there. The mother had proposed enough contact with the father so that they could keep up that relationship and the move didn’t harm the children’s best interests, since they’d get the same opportunities if they were in Texas. Other than leaving their father, the other factor weighing against the move was their large extended family on both sides in New Jersey, but they had already been incorporated into the new husband’s extended family. The doctor recommended the mother be allowed to move.

The father retained a different attorney and another doctor, who didn’t consider the same criteria as the court-appointed doctor under Baures. He used a best interests analysis and gave the opinion it was in the kids’ best interests to stay in New Jersey. The first doctor agreed that under the best interests standard, it was in the kids’ best interests to stay, but there weren’t enough contraindications to stop the plaintiff from relocating under the Baures criteria. The reports were both admitted into evidence, but neither was specifically mentioned by the court when it allowed the relocation.

Continue reading

kid on motorcycleIn a recent New Jersey appellate decision, the defendant appealed after a lower court awarded legal custody to her child’s father and modified parenting time and child support. The plaintiff and defendant had never gotten married, but they were involved romantically and had a child in 2009. They ended their relationship in 2010.

In 2011, a lower court granted the father visitation on every other weekend and one weekday night a week. He was responsible for picking up the child and dropping the child off. He had to pay child support based on an earlier order in the amount of $800 each month, although the amount was decided without consideration of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. Custody issues weren’t addressed.

The defendant lived in New Jersey at the time of the order and in 2015 relocated to live with her boyfriend. She enrolled the child in school but didn’t put the father on the emergency contact list. The father moved to modify the order and asked for joint legal custody and reduced child support. He also sought to claim the child on his tax returns and modify parenting time.

Continue reading

twinsA recent New Jersey appellate case arose from a couple’s 2008 marriage that lasted only a brief time. Three months after the couple married, the husband sued for divorce, and later the wife gave birth to their twin sons. The couple resolved all of the issues arising out of their marriage through a property settlement agreement that became part of their divorce judgment. The husband filed several motions about child support and parenting time related to the twins and also appealed the rulings.

While the last appeal was pending, the father tried to modify the parenting time plan. The mother asked for enforcement of earlier orders. The judge denied the father’s request for modification and determined that the father had failed to comply with his child support obligation and parenting time plan. This resulted in his needing to forfeit substantial parts of his parenting time and his being required to provide proof of life insurance for the twins.

The father appealed, asking for a downward reduction in child support because he’d been involuntarily terminated from his job, among other things. The appellate court explained that the original order had to do with a six-year-old property settlement agreement created when the twins were infants. Now, they were over six years old, and the agreement had acknowledged that the father would get more parenting time as they grew. The original agreement had limited his time due to the twins being breast-fed. The father worked and lived in Massachusetts. His child support arrears were in the amount of $25,574.89.

Continue reading

daughter-1525898-e1489524824760In DS v. CS, a New Jersey appellate court considered an appeal from a final restraining order entered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, and a change of custody ordered by the court. The lower family court had found that the defendant had threatened to kill her former husband and his current wife, and had harassed him by sending him threatening emails.

The couple was married in 1996 and got divorced in 2007. They had two kids, and at the time of their divorce the mother had primary residential custody, while the father had liberal parenting time. In 2015, the father got a temporary restraining order against the mother for her terroristic threats under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3, and harassment under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4. There was a trial at which the daughter was a witness and testified that the mother had threatened to kill the father and his wife. One of these threats had also been recorded. The threat was that the mother would kill the current wife and break her legs with a baseball. The witness testified similarly. In the mother’s emails, she also threatened the father, telling him he would pay.

The family court found that the defendant had made terroristic threats and committed harassment. It concluded that the daughter’s testimony was credible, as was the witness’s testimony. The emails were also considered threats and harassment. It granted the restraining order to stop the wife from committing further abuses.

Continue reading

mountainUnder 9:2-4 of the New Jersey Code, the rights of both parents are considered when making custody determinations. Their rights are equal with respect to the child. Usually, custody determinations or agreements must include some consideration of parenting time in relation to a child’s vacations.

In a 2016 New Jersey appellate court decision, a father appealed from an order that denied his request to modify his parenting time, take his kids on vacation, and undergo a custody neutral assessment. The couple had married in 2000 and had two kids. They divorced in 2011 and entered into an amended judgment of divorce in 2011. The amended judgment incorporated their settlement agreement.

Among other things, the parties agreed that holidays and extended vacations would take precedence over regularly scheduled access. During even-numbered years, the mother would choose vacation weeks first, and the defendant would do so in odd-numbered years. They would have to give each other their written itineraries, and the noncustodial parent would still get two phone calls every week. The couple agreed that if there were a dispute about any of the custody provisions in the judgment or agreement, they would try to resolve the matter by talking about it and through mediation if they could agree upon this at the time. Otherwise, it would be resolved through a motion to the court.

Continue reading

child and dog
In a recent unpublished New Jersey appellate opinion, a mother appealed from a custody order that directed the parents to share equal parenting time with their only child on an alternating weekly basis. The mother argued that the father’s parenting time should have been restricted to Thursday through Saturday on alternating weeks.

The child was born in 2014 after the couple had been dating for two years. They both worked for the United States Navy. The mother lived in New Jersey, while the father lived in Maryland. Due to Navy paternity and maternity leave benefits, the couple could live together after the baby was born until 2014. From the time the child was born until the father’s paternity leave ended, the couple lived in the mother’s house. When the father went back to work, they lived in his home during the week in Maryland and lived in the mother’s New Jersey home on weekends. For five months, their child lived in the same household as his parents and was cared for by both of them.

When the mother went back to work in June 2014, their relationship ended. She filed a verified complaint asking for custody of the child. The father counterclaimed, asking for joint legal but not physical custody of the child. They went to mediation, which didn’t resolve anything. However, pending the hearing on custody, they agreed to a temporary parenting time arrangement such that the father would have parenting time with the child on alternate weeks from Thursday through Sunday. The father could take off every other Friday, and the parenting schedule would coincide with those weeks.

Continue reading