How Much Change is Necessary to Alter Parenting Time?
By Snyder & Sarno on May 18, 2015
In the recent unpublished New Jersey Appellate Division case of Santos v. Yanez, the court addressed a child custody case where a mother attempted, through two legal pleadings, to limit a father’s parenting time because of his fiancé’s actions even though she presented no new evidence to support her case.
In Santos, the parties shared a young daughter. Their custody agreement allowed for joint custody and provided that the father would occasionally pick up the child from school. On one instance, the father was unable to pick up the child; so instead, he asked his fiancé to do so. After the fiancé picked up the child, she was involved in a car accident where the child was severely injured.
Subsequent to the accident, the mother filed a motion asking for a drastic reduction in the father’s parenting time, among other requests, like proof of automobile insurance and a drug and alcohol evaluation. The trial court denied the relief and stated that a mistake, when it comes to parenting, does not mean that a parent loses time with his or her child. Moreover, there was no evidence that the father himself acted intentionally to put the child at risk.
The mother, however, was unhappy with the court’s decision, so she filed a motion for reconsideration. The trial court denied the mother’s motion because it included no new information or a showing that there were changed circumstances justifying a change in custody.
On appeal, the New Jersey Appellate Division agreed with the trial court’s decision. The court noted that a trial court should only consider a motion for reconsideration where a party wants to provide new evidence, the court failed to consider evidence, or the basis for the court’s decision was erroneous. See D’Atria v. D’Atria, 242 N.J. Super. 392, 401 (Ch. Div. 1990). Furthermore, without a showing that the father abused or neglected the child, it was in the best interests of the child, and prevailing public policy, to promote relationships between parents and their children.
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