Custody And Parenting Time Dispute Mediation Compelled
- September 4, 2014
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In the recent Appellate Division case, Piscopo v. Piscopo, a father petitioned the Family Court to stop his ex-wife from relocating with their children and to compel her to honor their mutually agreed upon Consent Order to resolve issues of custody and parenting time through mediation before going to the courts. The Plaintiff, Brian Piscopo, appealed from a 2013 Family Court Order that denied his request to restrain the Defendant, Michelle Piscopo, from: 1) moving to Holmdel, New Jersey with the parties’ children, and 2) the modification of the parties’ custody and parenting time arrangement. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Family Court. The parties in this case were married in 2007 and subsequently had two (2) children together. Upon the filing of the divorce complaint the parties participated in custody mediation which was successful. In 2012, the parties entered into a Consent Agreement which seemingly solved all issues with regard to custody and parenting time. According to the Consent Order, the parties agreed to share joint legal custody of their two (2) children with the Defendant as the parent of primary residence and the Plaintiff as the parent of alternate residence. Further, the Order specified that the parties would continue to work out a mutually agreeable parenting time schedule that was consistent with their daily lives but that Plaintiff would have parenting time every other weekend and over nights every Monday and Thursday. Finally, the Order included a term that the parties agreed that if a dispute over parenting time were to arise they shall first attempt to solve the issue through communication with each other, their attorneys, and/or through mediation before litigating the matter. In late 2013, the Defendant decided to move to Holmdel, New Jersey and the Plaintiff objected and filed an application with the court to prevent the move. The Plaintiff argued that pursuant to the Consent Order he enjoyed nearly equal parenting time with the Defendant and if she were to move to Holmdel he would not be able to continue his shared parenting time. The Family Court judge compelled the parties to first attempt to solve the issue outside of court, as per their agreement and directed them to attend mediation. The Plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Division found that the parties’ Consent Order, which was incorporated into their Final Divorce Judgment and Property Settlement Agreement, expressly provided for dispute resolution, including mediation, before either party resorts to litigation. Further, marital settlement agreements and their like are “favored by the courts as a peaceful means of terminating marital strife and discord so long as they are not against public policy.” Dolce v. Dolce, 383 N.J. Super. 11, 20 (App. Div. 2006); Weishaus, Weishaus, 180 N.J. 131, 143-44 (2004). In this case, the Appellate Court found that the Family Court judge was correct to enforce to parties’ mutually agreed upon dispute resolution agreement, as mediation has proven to be successful in the past for parties with similar disputes. Finally, the Appellate Court added that “should mediation prove unsuccessful, nothing in the trial court’s order precludes either party from promptly returning to court to adjudicate their dispute.” Child custody and child relocation cases are of the most emotional and difficult cases in all of family law. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for to modify your custody arrangement or to deal with your child relocation issue it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about custody and visitation, child relocation, parenting time, divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and is in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.