When practicing family law here in New Jersey, one of the most fact sensitive areas for an attorney to handle is a child custody case. Very early on during into the case, our lawyers are sure to prepare our clients for the types of questions they shall face not only in a child custody plenary hearing (i.e., trial), but even before the trial begins. Your lawyer should advise you that the first round of questions come in the form of “Child Custody Interrogatories.” If you are potentially facing a child custody dispute here in New Jersey, my experience as a family law attorney dictates that you should familiarize yourself with the following questions so that you are prepared in case you end of in a New Jersey Family Court.
Pursuant to the New Jersey Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program Guidelines, a parenting coordinator is “a qualified neutral person appointed by the court, or agreed to by the parties, to facilitate the resolution of day to day parenting issues that frequently arise within the context of family life when parties are separated.” The court will usually appoint a parenting coordinator in cases where kids are minors and their parents are incapable of sticking to their original child custody and parenting time agreement. As a New Jersey divorce lawyer, I frequently refer to the case of Shakoor v. Mohammadi to help explain how this works.
In the following case involved custody of a young child named Mary here in New Jersey. I have been the attorney for the defendant for many, many years as this child custody case sadly went on for years. Moreover, this particular case would be a challenge for the most seasoned attorney. When I came into the case, a final restraining order had already been established. Consistent with New Jersey law, the restraining order addressed custody of the minor child, Mary. At that time, a Custody Neutral Assessment (CNA) was court ordered as well. One myself and the other lawyer received the results of the CNA, we were able to use the CNA as the framework of a global settlement regarding both custody and parenting time with respect to this little girl. Following is the type of language that would be placed into a Consent Order in such a case. For obvious reason, I have radically changed the names and facts of this case.
Well, it depends. The child custody lawyers at our New Jersey based law firm understand that both parents have a fundamental right to have visitation (a/k/a parenting time) with their child. Having said that, the focus of our attorneys and the judges of New Jersey Family Courts is always on the best interest of the child.
Our family law and divorce law firm’s motto has always been “kids first.” Similarly, New Jersey Family Part courts will always consider the best interest of child paramount to any other consideration. As the focus of our lawyers as well as a judge of a N.J. Family Court is always the best interest of the child. Sadly, there are times that a judge the will order a parent and children to take part in therapeutic supervised visitation before reinstating visitation rights. Unfortunately, many times even therapeutic supervised visitation, facilitated by a professional, is not enough heal the wrongs that may have been committed in the past. In C.H.G. v. G.C.R., mother G.C.R. appealed an order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Passaic County dated February 10, 2015, that vacated a previously entered order that allowed for therapeutic supervised visitation between her and her two sons, born in January 1999 and November 2001. After review the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the order of the Family Part.
Yes, if a New Jersey Family Court finds that the move out of the state of New Jersey is not in the best interests of the child. During my many years as a child custody attorney, I embrace that when one parent wants to move away to another state with the child, it can be devastating to the other parent as well as the child. However, to do so, the parent wishing to relocate with the child, must file a removal motion. A removal motion, or a motion to move out of state with the child, requires the court to examine the current parenting arrangement between the parents, and if the motion is really a removal action, or actually an action to change custody disguised as a removal motion. When both parents share joint physical and legal custody, the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey reviews the case as a motion for a change in custody. Therefore, the burden is on the lawyer for the parent requesting the change in custody to prove that the change is in the best interest of the child.
Child custody disputes are inherently contentious as emotions run high. The lawyers at my law firm promote parents to agree to a custody and parenting time arrangement. Such agreements are memorialized by a Consent Order, which is prepared by the respective attorneys and executed by the judge of a New Jersey Family Court. However, many parents change their minds later on, sometimes for selfish reasons and others times because they feel a change is best for the children. However, the bottom line when one parent wants to transfer custody or even change parenting time arrangements, they must demonstrate that any change is in the best interest of the children. As this can get complicated legally, it is always recommended that your lawyer only handles family law and child custody cases. In Hand v. Hand, mother, Christina Hand, appealed an order of Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part that denied her request to transfer custody of her two sons from her ex-husband, John Hand, to herself. Let’s see why.
It is quite challenging for even the most seasoned New Jersey child custody lawyer to win on a motion for reconsideration, but not impossible. Many judges see motions for reconsideration as a chance for an unhappy party to complain and re-litigate issues that have already been decided. Additionally, many courts believe that motions for reconsideration are an unnecessary waste of the court’s time and legal fees to the client. Keeping this in mind, it is important for a motion for reconsideration to be drafted by your lawyer with the utmost care. The motion should include the specific controlling cases or legal errors that the person believes that the court has overlooked or erred. Our state has some of the most careful and dedicated judges in the country, but mistakes do happen. Even Superior Court judges are not immune from making a mistake. This is why it is so important to be represented by a competent and experienced attorney who can draft a successful motion for reconsideration in case a mistake does happen.
In a child custody hearing, the facts are everything. The lawyers at my family law and divorce law firm leave no stone unturned before we are off to Middlesex County Family Court (and others throughout the state) to engage a child custody trial. One of many reason that you should always have an attorney who only handles family law cases is that we understand what facts must be placed on the record, either by certification or testimony, to demonstrate enough proof that your child custody case deserves a full-blown hearing.
Under New Jersey law in a case wherein one parent refuses to cooperate with reunification therapy that has been ordered by a judge of the Family Part, Superior Court of New Jersey, your attorney may seek financial sanctions against the intentionally non-complaint parent. A court often orders reunification therapy when parental alienation (i.e., when one parent is found to be purposefully “brain-washing” their child’s affection towards their other parent) comes to light. The lawyers at our law firm in East Brunswick, New Jersey are always aggressive in any child custody case in which our client is the victim of parental alienation as it is not only against our client’s interest but also not in the best interests of the child. The following is an analysis of a recent case discussing the consequences a parent may face if they fail to comply with court orders or are involved in ongoing parental alienation of the other parent.
In Brinkrode v. Brinkrode, the parties were married and had one child born of the marriage. The parties divorced in 2013 and agreed to share joint legal custody of their child, meaning the parties would make all important decisions together regarding the child’s care. The parties also agreed that the ex-wife would be the parent of primary residence, meaning the child would live with the ex-wife the majority of the time.
After the divorce, the ex-wife began alienating the parties’ child from the ex-husband. The ex-husband proved alienation in court and the Superior Court of New Jersey Family Part ordered that the parties participate in reunification therapy, which is meant to reunite an alienated parent with his or her child. The court ordered that the therapy be held with a licensed social worker. The ex-wife, however, refused to assist with the therapy and declined to sign the retainer agreement required by the therapist. Therefore, the trial judge entered an order on June 4, 2014 to compel the ex-wife to sign the therapist’s retainer agreement. The enforcement order also required the ex-wife to split and pay the therapy costs with her ex-husband within three weeks. The order stated that if the ex-wife failed to comply, she would be charged five dollars per day until she signed the retainer and paid the therapy fees.
The ex-wife did not comply with the trial judge’s order despite the possibility of sanctions. Due to the ex-wife’s failure to comply, the ex-husband’s relationship with the parties’ child continued to decline. On August 27, 2014, the judge enforced the sanctions ordered in the June 4, 2014 order. The judge also told the ex-wife that the sanctions would increase to $100 per day if she continued to fail to comply with the orders and continued to be uncooperative with the therapy. Additionally, the ex-wife was now not informing the ex-husband of developments in the child’s life, which she was required to do on a weekly basis. The trial judge warned the ex-wife that if she continued to defy her obligation to keep the ex-husband informed, she would be faced with sanctions of $250 per day. The judge also awarded the ex-husband attorney’s fees.
Despite the threat and enforcement of sanctions, the ex-wife continued to defy the order. The judge entered another enforcement order on October 10, 2014, and increased the ex-wife’s sanctions to $250 per day and awarded the ex-husband additional attorney’s fees. The judge allowed the ex-husband to collect the sanctions by reducing the amount out of the ex-husband’s monthly alimony payment to the ex-wife by the amount that the ex-wife owed in sanctions. The ex-wife then filed a motion with the court for reconsideration of the judge’s order to enforce sanctions. On January 16, 2015, the judge denied the ex-wife’s motion for reconsideration of the orders.
On appeal, the ex-wife argued that the sanctions ordered by the trial judge were unfairly burdensome and that the judge ordered the sanctions without considering the ex-wife’s ability to pay. Also, the ex-wife argued that before the judge ordered sanctions, he should have held a plenary hearing. A plenary hearing is held when there are issues of material fact and the parties’ testimony is needed to resolve the issues. The New Jersey Appellate Division agreed with the trial judge and affirmed the trial judge’s decision.
The Appellate Division stated that its review of the trial judge’s decision to impose sanctions is under an abuse of discretion standard. The Appellate Division found that the ex-wife purposely and continuously refused to comply with the orders to cooperate with the reunification therapy, which was necessary for the ex-husband to restart parenting time with the parties’ child. Furthermore, the Appellate Division stated that the trial judge gave the ex-wife ample time to comply with the orders and started out with small monetary sanctions. The Appellate Division noted that the trial judge warned the ex-wife before imposing larger sanctions, but it quickly became clear that the ex-wife was not going to comply. The Appellate Division also stated that a plenary hearing was not necessary in this case because there was no dispute of material fact, especially since the ex-wife voluntarily disclosed that she did not comply with the trial judge’s orders.
Lastly, the Appellate Division stated that the trial judge considered the ex-wife’s ability to pay the daily sanctions and allowed the sanctions to be offset by the ex-husband’s alimony obligation. The Appellate Division noted that the trial judge’s method was a practical way to deal with the ex-wife’s failure to comply. Therefore, the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Our law firm is here to help you or a loved one if they a facing a situation of parental alienation.