Mediation Of Custody and Parenting Time Issues
- January 21, 2015
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In the recent Appellate Division case, D.A. v. R.C., the court remanded the parties to mediation to attempt to resolve issues regarding the child custody and parenting time arrangement with regard to their son because the Family Court failed to properly address the legal and factual issues of the case. The parties’ son Jeremy was born in 1998. The parties, in 2002, executed a Consent Order for joint custody which specified that Jeremy would live with D.A. and enjoy liberal parenting time with R.C. In 2012, R.C. submitted a Motion to the court to alter the Consent Order to have Jeremy live with him because his relationship with D.A. had disintegrated. D.A. objected to the Motion arguing that the custodial arrangement was only intended to be temporary to allow her to graduate from the police academy. During three (3) hearings that were conducted on this issues the parties each presented completely opposing views with regard to their custody arrangement. D.A., the Plaintiff, argued that R.C., the Defendant’s, home life was filled with domestic violence which endangered Jeremy and make R.C. unfit to be her son’s residential parent. The Defendant argued that D.A.’s adversarial parenting style drove their son away from her so much that he did not want to live with her. The Appellate Division found that due to the level of informality with which the hearings were conducted the resolutions that were adjudicated with regard to the disputed issues were precluded. According to the record, the trial judge was not aware that due to the fact that Jeremy’s parenting time and custody were genuine and substantial issues that were unresolved, he was obligated under Rule 5:8-1 to refer the case to mediation. Due to this oversight, the Appellate Division remanded the case to mediation so that the parties could attempt to resolve the issues that remained. Based upon the parties’ history of antipathy towards each other and their prior unwillingness to attempt to reach a mutual compromise the Appellate Court directed that the Family Court closely oversee the mediation. Further, if mediation failed to resolve the parenting time and custody issues the Family Court judge was directed to conduct a hearing to solve the factual disputes and legal findings on the record as is required by N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(f) and N.J. Court Rule 1:7-4(a) by either interviewing Jeremy in camera or placing the reasons for not doing so on the record. Finally, the Family Court judge must consider the factors found in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) to reach a decision because he previously failed to consider them. Child custody and parenting time 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 a modification of your current child custody arrangement it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about child custody, parenting time, mediation, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.