Articles Posted in custody

Published on:

In the case of Slawinski v. Nicholas, 448 N.J. Super. 25 (App. Div. 2016), the Appellate Division addressed a dispute involving parents who entered into a consent order establishing rights to grandparent visitation but then later wished to abrogate those rights. In this case, a motion was brought by the mother to terminate the visitation rights of the fraternal grandparents, claiming that the children were being harmed by the visits. The Appellate Division reversed the decision of trial court and stated that a parent could not unilaterally modify the consent order granting rights of grandparent visitation. The Court rejected the mother’s argument that, “[T]here is no burden that [mother] has to do anything other than say this is not working out, I tried.” The Appellate Division addressed grandparent visitation, as follows:

“We recognize that a parent’s fundamental right to raise a child as he or she sees fit encompasses the authority to determine visitation by third parties, including grandparents. See Moriarty v. Bradt, 177 N.J. 84, 114-15 (2003), cert. den., 540 U.S. 1177 (2004). Yet, that autonomy gives way to the need to protect the child from harm. Id. at 115. Thus, “grandparents seeking visitation . . . must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that denial of the visitation they seek would result in harm to the child.” Id. at 88. “If the court agrees that the potential for harm has been shown, the presumption in favor of parental decision making will be deemFAye_and_Dick-300x230ed overcome.” Id. at 117.

Still, proof of harm involves a greater showing than simply the best interests of the child. Id. at 116 (stating that a dispute between a “fit custodial parent and the child’s grandparent is not a contest between equals[,]” Consequently “the best interest standard, which is the tiebreaker between fit parents, is inapplicable”). Substantively, it is a “heavy burden.” Major v. Maguire, 224 N.J. 1, 18 (2016); cf. Fawzy v. Fawzy, 199 N.J. 456, 479 (2009) (“The threat of harm is a significantly higher burden than a best-interests analysis”). The harm to the grandchild must be “a particular identifiable harm, specific to the child.” Mizrahi v. Cannon, 375 N.J. Super. 221, 234 (App. Div. 2005). It “generally rests on the existence of an unusually close relationship between the grandparent and the child, or on traumatic circumstances such as a parent’s death.” Daniels v. Daniels, 381 N.J. Super. 286, 294 (App. Div. 2005). By contrast, missed opportunities for creating “happy memories” do not suffice. Mizrahi, supra, 375 N.J. Super. at 234. Only after the grandparent vaults the proof-of-harm threshold will the court apply a best-interests analysis to resolve disputes over visitation details. Moriarty, supra, 177 N.J. at 117.

Published on:

On August 15, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division approved for publication the decision in the matter of E.S. v. H.A (A-3230-14T2 and A-3256-14T2), in which the Appellate Division addressed whether a parent may be required to admit to a crime as a condition for that parent to be able to make an application for visitation with one’s child.  The Appellate Division concluded that parents cannot be required by the state to forego their Constitutional right against self-incrimination as a condition to seek custody or visitation with their child.

In this case, the parties divorced in 2009, but they had been unable to resolve their custody and parenting time dispute over their son, Richard, by the time of the divorce.  During the litigation, Plaintiff’s two requests for domestic violence restraining orders against Defendant were denied.  During the litigation she reported to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) that Defendant had sexually abused Richard on two occasions, leading to the suspension of Defendant’s visitation.   One month after the divorce, DCPP determined that the “abuse was substantiated for sexual molestation” of Richard by Defendant as to one of the two alleged incidents.  While Defendant pursued an administrative appeal of the DCPP findings, Plaintiff filed an application in the family court seeking to reinstate a suspension of Defendant’s parenting time.  The family court scheduled a hearing to determine whether it was in Richard’s best interest for parenting time with Defendant to resume, and appointed a psychologist to conduct an evaluation.

By the time of the hearing in 2012, Defendant had withdrawn his appeal of the DCPP findings.  The family court in 2013 issued an oral opinion, finding that there was clear and convincing evidence that Defendant had sexually abused Richard.  The court granted Plaintiff sole legal and physical custody of Richard and denied Defendant parenting time.  As recommended by the psychological experts, the court further ordered that if the Defendant (1) admitted wrong-doing; (2) submitted to a psycho-sexual evaluation; and (3) participated in individual therapy, he could apply for a consideration of future parenting time through Therapeutic Management Reunification.

Published on:

Nothing is more precious to us than our children. The Supreme Court of the United States has established the right to know one’s children as a fundamental Constitutional right. In New Jersey the9-08-3-300x225 right to know and raise one’s children is firmly entrenched in statutory and case law.  In our mobile society the right to know one’s children post-divorce has often come in conflict with the post-divorce business or social needs of the parents.  New Jersey, like many North Eastern states, has a highly transient population who has come here for business or personal reasons and may find business or social needs more compelling than identity to the State as home. When parents of children feel compelled to move, there is often contention over the impact of such a move on custody of the children. Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, a March, 2017 written opinion by family court judge the Honorable Russell J. Passomano, J.S.C. was approved for publication in the matter of BG-v-LH (FM-07-468-13).   In this published opinion the court addressed issues of296050aba1c021ff4a7e4cab0ed498d2-1-300x200 jurisdiction in a custody and parenting time dispute where one party had relocated with the children out of the state of New Jersey, but the parties had reached an agreement as part of their divorce that future custody disputes would be decided under New Jersey law and in New Jersey courts.  This case contains a detailed analysis that a family court undergoes to resolve jurisdiction issues and the application of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Continue reading

Published on:

I was at a social event recently. A woman attending that event, after learning that I was a divorce attorney, came up to me. She told me that her ex-husband had just filed court papers seeking to modify or terminate her alimony payments. With indignation in her voice she explained that “He can’t do that because I have permanent alimony!” It was obvious that this person had taken the word “permanent” literally, and believed that her alimony rights were forever immutable. She seemed genuinely shocked when I explained, without getting into the details of her case, that even “permanent” alimony may be modified or terminated upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. Continue reading

Published on:

There is a saying among realtors that the first offer is usually the best offer. Why is that?  Because the first offer is made when the property is freshly on the market. When real estate sits buyers6a3146dbdf81597192112ac03d77c7e4-300x200 become suspicious. There is also the cost of holding the property to factor in.  The first offer likely saves the seller from incurring more tax, mortgage, utility and upkeep costs. There is a lot to be said about the psychological benefits of a fast deal as well. No worry, no uncertainty, no sleepless nights. Continue reading

Published on:

This week the media was abuzz with news of the demise of another celebrity marriage, this time with the separation of professional basketball player, Carmelo Anthony, from his wife Lala

file000142175851-300x230

Weddings rings and large bills of money

Anthony. The Anthony’s have been married since 2010 and have a 10 year-old son. Their potential divorce raises questions about what would happen with their assets and who would get custody of their son in their divorce, were such a case to arise in New Jersey. Continue reading

Published on:

Domestic-violenceThe time period in the lead up to and immediately after a couple separates is more likely than not rife with conflict. Unfortunately, the conflicts, whether verbal and/or physical, can rise to the level of abuse that is tantamount to domestic violence. Recently, a New Jersey family court in Ocean County issued an unpublished opinion is the case of AS-v-VS, FM-15-923-17, which is illustrative about how a family court judge handles a domestic violence complaint, especially in proximity to the filing of another family court matter. Continue reading

Published on:

A new situation comedy is about to premier on HBO simply titled “Divorce” starring Sarah Jessica Parker, who also serves as an executive producer. We all know that divorce is a serious, life-altering event. Like many situation comedies that find humor in dysfunctional marriages or family situations, it is understandable why television would want to extend those notions to the divorce arena. While litigants may not see the humor of it, many times we as lawyers, looking at it from the outside, shake our head in disbelief of the types of things that otherwise good and reasonable people will do or say to try to get back at, or get one over on, their spouse, a person they used to love but now despise. Continue reading

Published on:

The Presidential election is about a month away, and one of the major issues of this election has been immigration.   Immigration is regulated under federal law, chiefly under the Immigration and

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nationality Act (INA), enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1952, and the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1986 in an effort to curb illegal immigration.   The U.S. Supreme Court has has almost universally overruled any state’s efforts to regulate immigration, not only based upon the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but also to ensure a national standard on immigration rather than various patchwork laws by the individual states.  Family law, however, is an area that falls into the control of the individual state’s authority to legislate and govern. Continue reading