It doesn’t matter if you were wed to your ex’ mother or father. Whether your child was conceived during a marriage or outside of one, custody and parenting time are important issues. How they are handled can make a big difference.
Arguably, there’s a chance that you already have a custody and parenting time agreement in place. It’s one of the first issues considered in a divorce matter. Of course, child support is another crucial consideration. For those who never wed and share a child or children, the sole court order will be related to provisions for their offspring.
Earlier this year, we wrote about the role of Custody and Parenting Time Mediation. This program is generally employed when parents initially split up. A recommendation and court order may come out of the process. If applicable, the agreement could carry over to the Final Judgment of Divorce.
If it were a perfect world, the first court order would represent the end to disputes concerning custody and parenting times. However, the possibilities for disagreements are endless. After all, times change. And, so do people.
Recent Case Addresses Custody and Parenting Time
A recent New Jersey Appellate Court unpublished opinion dealt with the issue of a custody and parenting time dispute. The case involved an unmarried couple, parents of a daughter born in 2005. A number of court orders have been entered concerning custody and parenting time of the child.
Sophia Arce-Pinto is the child’s mother; Mulhare Alcius, the father. It appears that the first court order regarding custody and parenting time was entered in November of 2012. It was a consent order, meaning that both parties agreed to the terms.
The parents assumed joint-custody, although Sophia was named as the parent of primary residence. The couple agreed to alternate weekends for parenting time. Mulhare was also able to visit with his daughter in the middle of the week during the dinner hour.
Less than a year after the consent agreement was signed, Sophia returned to court asking for changes in the order. The matter was referred to mediation and a sixteen page Shared Parenting Plan Agreement was drawn up. The agreement included details about joint and physical custody, visitation and division of holidays and vacation. It was incorporated into a new consent order dated June of 2013.
Despite the new agreement, the couple continued to have issues relating to custody and parenting time. In July of 2014, Sophia motioned for a modification of the Shared Parenting Plan Agreement. She felt Mulhare was inconsistent with the mid-week visits. Sophia also cited issues with the conclusion of the weekend parenting time. Lastly, she was upset that Mulhare had enrolled the child in summer camp. Apparently, the schedule conflicted with her parenting time.
Sophia further contended that her child’s father refused to return to mediate the issues with her. In response, Mulhare motioned for sole custody.
When the family court judge ruled on the requests by the parties, she stated that the “parties' failure to communicate with each other was "egregious." The judge continued the prior court rulings, without addressing mediation. She did, however, order psychological evaluations.
The psychologist who evaluated the parties felt that both were doing a good job. His observation was that there was no reason to change the parenting agreement. He relied on the adage “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Ultimately, the case came back to court, and two subsequent orders were issued. There was confusion with interpreting one. A new judge was assigned to hear the matter because of alleged conflicts of interest.
In the end, the Appellate Division stressed the importance of the “best interests of the child.” The case was referred back for mediation concerning custody and parenting time issues. If the issues did not resolve during mediation, they would then go back to court. The evidence would then be reviewed by the judge.
Concerned about a custody or parenting time agreement? The Law Offices of Sam Stoia can help you determine the feasibility of a modification. We can also guide you through the mediation process. Contact us to learn more about the process.