Appellate Division Affirms Denial: Samuel v. Calabrese Child Support Case
Docket No. A-2231-21
Decided August 14, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division of New Jersey affirmed a trial court’s denial of defendant’s request to modify supervised parenting time and child support, despite defendant’s alleged inability to pay for the supervised visits.
In Samuel v. Calabrese, the parties were married in 2007. They have two children: a daughter, who was born in 2009, and a son, who was born in 2012. In 2013, they were divorced by way of a judgment of divorce, incorporating an August 15, 2013 stipulation of settlement, which had been executed by the parties. In the stipulation, the parties agreed plaintiff would have “sole physical and legal decision making and custody” of the children and defendant initially would have supervised visitation with the children at least once a week for four hours. The parties also agreed defendant would pay plaintiff a total of fifty dollars per month in child support until he obtained “gainful income from employment.”
Post-judgment litigation resulted in a February 26, 2018 consent order in which the parties agreed Dr. Elizabeth Stilwell would “continue to conduct therapeutic supervised parenting time” with defendant.
In 2019, defendant moved for unsupervised contact with the children. The motion judge denied that application in a July 9, 2019 order, noting the agreed upon procedure set forth in the February 26, 2018 consent order and finding Dr. Stilwell determined defendant’s contact with the children must be supervised and no expert had recommended a modification of defendant’s parenting time.
Defendant subsequently applied for the same relief. Finding no changed circumstances, the Judge denied both Defendant’s request to change the supervised parenting arrangements and the child support obligation because Defendant failed to provide any proof that his circumstances were different from when he made the previous application. Defendant appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed on the same grounds.
In order to modify any agreement or court order for custody, child support, or alimony etc., the movant must show a significant non temporary change of circumstances to modify pursuant to Lepis v. Lepis. This is not a small feat, and in this circumstance, the Defendant’s repeated attempts to modify the Court Order were not enough, despite his contention he could not afford to pay for the supervised visits.
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