Articles Posted in Visitation

A number of tricky legal questions can come up when a couple with kids decides to divorce. These include how to handle a situation in which the parents split custody and one decides that he or she wants to move out of state. New Jersey’s Superior Court recently gave us a quick glimpse at how judges are expected to handle these cases.

childHusband and Wife separated in August 2013, following an eight-year marriage. They eventually entered into a marital settlement agreement, under which the parents shared joint legal custody and Wife was granted primary physical custody over the couple’s twin girls. Husband, meanwhile, got a “liberal” visitation arrangement in which his daughters stayed with him every other weekend, two or three weeknights per month, and on rotating holidays. The former spouses also agreed that they would try to live within a 15-minute drive from each other, that neither spouse would move more than 20 miles away from the other, and that neither spouse would move out of state without the other’s prior written consent.

Wife started a relationship with a man living in Utah shortly after Husband and she separated. She quit her job after the divorce, telling Husband that she intended to be a stay at home parent. Six months later, she told Husband that she intended to get remarried and move to Utah with the kids. Although Husband denied permission, a trial court granted Wife’s motion to relocate without holding a hearing on the matter. Instead, the court ordered the former spouses to come up with a new visitation schedule. When Husband refused to participate, the court granted a schedule based largely on Wife’s suggestions. Wife then permanently moved to Utah with the kids.

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Child support and visitation are just some of the issues that regularly come up in New Jersey family law cases. Although many of these issues can often be resolved by agreement between spouses or parents, some must eventually be hammered out by a judge. If you are not satisfied with the Trial Court’s decision, you have the right to appeal it.   You should, however, carefully consider the factors on appeal.  It is a costly and time-consuming process that must make sense to pursue.  As a recent case out of New Jersey’s Superior Court shows Appeal Courts are often highly deferential to a trial judge’s findings about the facts of the case.  Family Court judges have wide discretion.

child-on-the-beach-1505504Mother and Father divorced in June 2013, following roughly 17 years of marriage. They eventually agreed to share legal custody of their children, with Mother retaining primary physical custody of the kids. Father agreed that his visitation time with the children would be supervised. Five years later, he later went back to court to have the supervision lifted. After hearing testimony from a number of parenting and custody experts, the trial judge sided with Father. The judge found that there was no reason that Father’s time with the children should be supervised.

The trial judge also reduced Father’s monthly support payments. He had been paying Mother more than $600 per month in child support based on the original Order; however, the Trial Court found that Father should have been responsible for about $200 less a month based on child support guidelines that are used to set support levels. The Court felt there was a prior mistake in the child support figure.  As a result, the court also credited Father for the over payments.

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