Child Custody Transfer To Father Stands While Awaiting Plenary Hearing
- November 19, 2015
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Custody of a 13 year old child was transferred from the mother to the father in Skinner v. Cole. The parties were never married and the mother, Janice Skinner, Plaintiff, was Noah’s primary caregiver since birth as before he was 2 years old she and Noah moved to Pennsylvania while the father remained in New Jersey. When Noah was 13, the Defendant, Bruce Cole, Noah’s father, filed a petition for custody claiming Noah desired to live with him, Plaintiff’s relatives used drugs in the residence, the Plaintiff worked long hours and rarely gave him attention, and Noah was frequently subject to assaults in the school he attended at his mother’s residence. Alternatively, the Defendant claimed to enjoy a good relationship with Noah and live in a drug-free environment with a good school district. Plaintiff’s reply maintained that she enjoyed a good relationship with Noah, he had a glucose problem that the mother was used to managing properly while the father mismanaged the problem while Noah was visiting with him, the father’s house offered inadequate quarters for Noah , and Noah was an honor roll student in his current school yet she was still seeking a better school system for him. The Plaintiff further added that the Defendant frequently lied to Noah to destroy his faith in his mother, that her family members did not use drugs, and the only reason for the Defendant’s motion was to terminate child support. The trial judge interviewed Noah who expressed a desire to live with his father and offered positive reasons for the change and negative reasons for wishing to leave his mother’s residence. The trial judge took no testimony from the parties and only briefly addressed some of the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c), which are required considerations in making custody decisions, then rendered the decision that custody of Noah would be transferred to the Defendant. The mother, Plaintiff, appealed the transfer of custody on the basis of the trial court’s failure to hold a plenary hearing before rendering its decision. The NJ Appellate Decision considered the requirement of Hand v. Hand, 391 N.J. Super. 102, 105 (App. Div. 2007) that a party seeking a modification of child custody must first demonstrate a change in circumstances substantial enough to affect the welfare of the child, especially when there are material issues of fact in dispute. Further, Faucett v. Vasquez, 411 N.J. Super. 108, 119 (App. Div. 2009) wherein the court set forth that custody should only be modified after a full hearing unless exigent circumstances evidencing extreme danger are present. The NJ Appellate Division reversed and remanded the matter for a plenary hearing to resolve the issues in dispute between the parties. It should be noted that, pending the plenary hearing following appeal, custody of Noah remained with the Defendant as the parent of primary residence rather than being returned to the mother. If you are seeking a modification in child custody or defending a motion filed by your child’s other parent, it is critical that you are aware of the factors and procedures involved. For more information regarding child custody, child support, divorce, emancipation, relocation of a child or other family law matters in New Jersey, visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.