Appellate Court Upholds Therapy and Supervised Parenting Time Order in Child Custody Appeal
Docket No. A-1972-21
Decided April 24, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a December 1, 2021 order denying his motion to reconsider a September 23, 2021 order that compelled defendant to exercise supervised parenting time and engage in therapy to repair his relationship with the parties’ son.
The parties, who never married, had a son together in 2013. In an August 2015 order, the parties agreed to share joint legal custody of their son, A.N. Plaintiff was designated as the parent of primary residence and defendant named the parent of alternate residence. The order also provided defendant with parenting time three overnights per week.
In April 2021, plaintiff filed a motion to suspend defendant’s parenting time based on allegations that he physically and emotionally abused their son. Defendant opposed plaintiff’s motion and filed a cross-motion attempting to reduce his child support obligations and modify existing parenting time arrangements so he would be named A.N.’s parent of primary residence.
On September 2, 2021, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (“DCPP”) sent defendant a letter stating that the allegations levied against him were unfounded and that DCPP would not be providing further services to A.N. or defendant’s family. On September 23, 2021, the trial judge entered an order directing counsel for the parties to look into family counseling services for defendant and the minor child, make an appointment, and notify the court about the arrangements made. The trial judge also directed the continuation of defendant’s supervised parenting time, but he allowed defendant’s sister to share in supervising responsibilities.
Defendant subsequently filed an untimely motion on October 27, 2021 for reconsideration of the court’s September 23, 2021 order. The judge heard oral argument and ultimately denied defendant’s motion. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erred by (1) not recusing itself; (2) failing to reinstate his parenting time after the results from the Division’s investigation were provided; (3) failing to uphold due process; and (4) ordering therapy even though this was “against his religious freedoms as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and there is a complete lack of merit to suggest therapy.” The Appellate Court of New Jersey was unpersuaded by any of defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court indicated that the nothing in the record supported the notion that the trial judge should have recused himself. Additionally, when considering defendant’s argument that he should not be subjected to therapy due to his religious beliefs, the court noted that although it is true that freedom of religion and the right of parents in the care and training of their children are accorded the highest possible respect, neither the rights of religion nor the rights of parenthood is limitless. In a court of equity, a child’s best interests and general welfare must be the primary interests at stake. Here, the Appellate Court believed the trial judge properly evaluated the child’s best interests over the interests of his parents, and there was no basis to second-guess trial court’s decision to order therapy and supervised parenting time until defendant’s relationship with the child was repaired.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to appealing parenting time or child custody orders. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
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