What Do You Do When the Parents Live 200 Miles Apart in Different States?
Agreeing on parenting time is often difficult for parents who both live close to one another in New Jersey. What happens when the parents live far apart, but also in different States? Must a child reside primarily in just one State with one of the parents?
That issue was addressed in a recent New Jersey case entitled Fisher v. Szczyglowski. In that case the unmarried parents terminated their relationship shortly after their son was born in January 2014. At the time of the New Jersey custody and parenting time hearing in December 2014, the mother lived in New Jersey, while the father lived in Maryland. Like most parents, each of them wanted as much time with their child as possible.
The father wanted his son to stay with him every other week for a full week at a time. The mother was concerned that, among many things, transporting the very young child to and from Maryland every week would be too much for the child. She suggested that the father have the child every other week from Thursday to Sunday only.
In deciding how to resolve the issue, the New Jersey Family Court judge considered the factors which the New Jersey custody statute (N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c)) directs New Jersey Family courts to evaluate. For a list of those factors, please click on this link.
Focusing on one of those factors (the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes), the judge concluded that although the distance between the homes certainly complicated the situation, the problem was not insurmountable.
The judge did not accept the mother’s argument that the travel would put too much stress on the child. The judge observed that, regardless of which parent’s proposed parenting arrangement occurred, the same amount of travel was necessary.
The New Jersey Family Court judge also concluded that the child was too young for the travel to have such adverse effects on him. There was no evidence that he would be harmed by the travel in any way, and there was no testimony by the child’s pediatrician to indicate otherwise.
Therefore, the judge accepted the father’s argument that his son should stay with him every other week for a full week at a time.
The mother’s appeal of that decision was unsuccessful. The New Jersey appeals court observed that the conclusions of New Jersey Family Court judges are entitled to great weight and should not be lightly disturbed on appeal.
As long as a New Jersey Family Court’s factual findings are supported by adequate, substantial and credible evidence, they should be upheld. In that regard, the New Jersey appeals court noted that the mother herself had testified that the child was very happy, stable, and healthy.
Salvaggio Law Group devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Family Law matters, including those related to custody and visitation. If you want to talk, please call us at (973) 447-4981 or fill out the Contact Form on our firm’s website.