Sunday, October 21, 2012
No Change in Custody in NJ Without a Hearing
In order to make a change in custody from the arrangement set forth under the terms of a Court Order or Property Settlement Agreement into which the parties freely and knowingly entered, the Court must hold a plenary hearing. A recent decision in the Essex County Superior Court, Family Part made a change in custody based solely on the recommendations of a court-appointed mediator. Originally, when plaintiff sought a change in custody, the parties agreed to retain a joint evaluator and enter into a consent order if they both agreed with the evaluator's recommendation. However, the parties and the court, further agreed that, if the decision of the evaluator was unacceptable to either party, that party could move for a hearing before the Court to determine whether the evaluator's recommendation should be implemented. The New Jersey Appellate Court reversed the superior Court ruling and reaffirmed a prior ruling in the case of G.C. v. M.Y. (287 N.J. super. 363, 368 (App.Div. 1995)) by stating that "unless there are exigent circumstances, changes in custody are not to be ordered without a plenary hearing." The exigent circumstances set forth were "evidence of imminent harm or threatened harm to the well-being of the child, there is no justification…[to make] a custody decision on an emergent basis, without a plenary hearing." This blog is for informational purposes only and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney regarding your specific matter. If you or your children's other parent are seeking a modification of custody, you should consult an experienced family law attorney immediately in order to protect your rights. For more information on custody, divorce, dissolution of civil union or domestic partnership, alimony, child support or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com.