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Post-Judgment Custody To Father Allows Child To Stay In Same School

Post-Judgment Custody To Father Allows Child To Stay In Same School

In a recent Essex County post-judgment custody modification case, Stevens v. Shah, the Plaintiff, Jennifer Stevens appealed from a 2012 Family Court order that directed the parties to share joint legal custody of their child and awarded temporary physical custody of the child to the father, Amir Shah, so that the child could continue to attend the same school he had been in prior to the divorce. In August of 2012, an Essex County Family Court Judge issued an order directing that the Family Division conduct a best interests investigation as to the parties’ child to assist in determining custody. Later, the judge held a hearing and took the testimony of the parties. After reviewing the best interests analysis and considering the testimony, the judge issued the aforementioned order. In the order the judge indicated that temporary physical custody of the child shall remain with the Defendant, in part, so that the child could remain in the Union school system. The Plaintiff was granted very liberal parenting time with her child. The judge stated that his decision was based upon the fact that when the court applied the best interest factors found in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) – most elements were equal except that the child’s continuity of education would be better served by allowing him to continue to go to school in Union, New Jersey. The Plaintiff appealed from this decision. The Appellate Division began its analysis by stating that a party wishing to modify a custody arrangement must demonstrate a “change in circumstances that affect the welfare of the child,” according to the reasoning set forth in Hand v. Hand, 391 N.J. Super. 102, 105 (App. Div. 2007). After a showing of changed circumstances is made, the court must then decide whether the requested modification is within the best interests of the child. Kinsella v. Kinsella, 150 N.J. 276, 317 (1997). To accomplish this the court must consider the best interest factors as set forth in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) and must make a record “referencing the statutory factors it has considered and the reasons for its custody determination.” J.A. v. A.T., 404 N.J. Super. 132, 145 (App. Div. 2008). In the current case, the Appellate Court was satisfied that all of the above mentioned requirements were satisfied. Although, it held that because its decision was grounded in the child’s best interest of continuity for the kindergarten year, and since all other factors were determined to be equal, the Plaintiff was permitted to seek physical custody without asserting changed circumstances after the school year. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your divorce judgment regarding such issues as child custody, alimony, or your child support obligation it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modifications, child custody, divorce, alimony, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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