Parenting Time: Protecting Your Child’s Best Interests
You may or may not be that familiar with the term “parenting time.” In years past, it was known as visitation. However, the Legislature acknowledges that mothers and fathers parent their children – rather than visit them. Thus, parenting time refers to the hours and days that non-custodial parents spend with their children.
According to a publication offered by the New Jersey Courts, parenting time is a child’s right. Unfortunately, this sometimes gets lost on either mom and dad – or both. Whether they were married or not, the end of a relationship can be contentious. Too often, the anger boils over and seriously impacts the children.
The courts take children’s best interests in making decisions involving custody and parenting time. Some individuals may retain experienced family law counsel and come up with their own parenting plans. The process may involve some creativity – and will always need the approval of the court.
Meanwhile, the more difficult cases are when the parents cannot find a happy medium. New Jersey has a program in place for parenting mediation. Unfortunately, one or both of the parties may still feel they cannot come to the agreement. Therefore, the next step is bringing the matter to court.
A recent New Jersey Appellate Court opinion, P.T. v. A.T. deals with a couple who have continued to litigate issues regarding their daughter. The facts of the case are most likely similar to those pertaining to other families across the state – and the nation.
Reconsideration of Parenting Time Issues
First, it is important to note that this case is not precedential, as it is an unpublished opinion. Therefore, the ruling only applies to the named parties. Also, the court has protected their names by electing to refer to the litigants by their initials.
P.T. and A.T. were divorced in 2009 and had a daughter together, who was born in 2006. P.T. is the child’s mother and has primary residential custody. A.T. now resides in Pennsylvania and was awarded parenting time.
A couple of years after the divorce was granted, the couple returned to court regarding parenting time and other parental issues. In fact, the record shows the over a six-year period, the two were in court for at least fourteen separate hearings. Meanwhile, eighteen separate court orders were entered during that same period.
The Appellate Division characterized the Family Court judge as a patient. Although the couple was encouraged to work out parenting issues without judicial intervention, it appeared impossible. Of course, both parents were reminded to work out their differences in the best interests of their child.
There are a couple of issues in this decision, but the primary focus was on A.T.’s parenting time. He alleged that P.T. intentionally scheduled their daughter for dance lessons during his planned parenting time. He also complained that his ex-wife wasn’t letting their daughter speak with him on the telephone. P.T. claimed he was not informed about the child’s medical visits. Lastly, P.T. was upset that there were no make-up parenting time arrangements.
After the judge reviewed the proofs by both parties, no additional parenting time was ordered. A.T. was not sanctioned for withholding the child. There was also no evidence that medical information was withheld. The court did not disrupt the parenting plan in place.
Back to Court
A.T. was not pleased with the judge’s decision and filed a motion for reconsideration. Parenthetically, it appears that A.T. represented himself in these hearings. The motion was denied because it was not filed within the proper time limits. The court also found that it lacked merits.
About a month later, P.T. filed an application to the court. She wanted A.T.’s parenting time suspended. According to the child, A.T. was watching pornography during his parenting time.
As a result of the allegations, A.T.’s parenting time was temporarily suspended. When it came to the hearing, a caseworker from the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency was called as a witness. The caseworker admitted that she had not yet interviewed the father. There was a parenting time suspension in place – and, A.T. lived in Pennsylvania.
Based on the fact that there was no collaboration, the judge continued to the order temporarily suspending A.T.’s parenting time. He was also ordered to undergo a psychological exam. After review of the report, the court would revisit the issue of the temporary suspension.
When A.T. appealed to the higher court, he did so prematurely. There was no permanent order denying him parenting time. The case was remanded on this issue to the Family Court judge for consideration since A.T. had completed the psychological exam.
It’s a fact. When you have children with someone, you may continue to have disagreements long after you’re divorced or your relationship ends. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we work hard to find results that benefit your child. Contact us for assistance.