Parenting Time and Credit for Overnights in New Jersey
In a recent New Jersey custody case, a mother appealed from an order on parenting time and child support. The father cross-appealed. The couple dated for about three years and had one child.
They agreed to share joint legal custody through two consent orders. The father was to pay the mother $100 per week. The next year, they worked out a custody agreement that addressed all of the issues, except two. They agreed that they would have joint legal custody and that neither party was to be designated the parent of primary residence. They also created a parenting time schedule.
The parenting time schedule required the father to pick the child up on Thursday morning and bring the child back on Friday afternoon, and it required the mother to pick the child up on Tuesday and have the child for the weekend, starting on Friday. The couple couldn’t agree on overnights or child support, and these were to be decided by the court. The court heard arguments in 2016, and the next day, the court provided an order that found the parties shared a 50/50 parenting time schedule and found that it was appropriate to deviate from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, deny their requests for child support, and direct the parties to share in the child’s health care.
The defendant appealed from a 2016 order and argued there was a mistake in finding the parties had a 50/50 parenting time schedule. She also argued it was improper for the court not to hold a hearing on who should be designated the parent of primary residence and to credit the father with equal parenting time under the Guidelines. She argued the court should have granted her request for child support. The father cross-appealed and argued that the mother should have had to pay child support to him, since he used eight out of 14 overnights with their child.
The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order. It explained it wouldn’t change the decision related to child support except if it’s clearly contrary to reason or evidence, arbitrary, or obviously unreasonable. It reasoned that the father and mother were both arguing that the lower court had made a mistake in deciding they had the child 50/50.
The father argued that due to pick up and drop off times, he had the child for over 24 hours, so he should get credit for two overnights. The appellate court ruled the family judge had acted within his discretion in refusing to follow this argument.
It also explained that the parties had stipulated the father made $65,000 a year, while the mother made $49,920. Since it decided the parents shared parenting time and had similar annual incomes, it was within the court’s discretion not to adjust the child support.
The court also found the mother was incorrect that it was necessary to hold a plenary hearing. In their custody agreement, the parents had agreed that neither was the parent of primary residential custody, so there was no need for a hearing. The parties had worked out their own parenting time schedule, so there wasn’t a need to hold a plenary fact-finding hearing. The court had to use its discretion to evaluate their agreement and decide how many overnights each party should be credited.
The appellate court affirmed the order, noting that it was temporary and would need to be changed or adjusted once the child went to school.
If you are considering a divorce in Bergen County, and you are concerned about alimony or child custody, it is important to retain an experienced and aggressive attorney to seek an appropriate outcome. Contact the lawyers of Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or through our online form. We have attorneys available who can handle all aspects of a divorce.