Denial to Vacate A Custody and Child Support Order Entered Nearly 8 Years Ago
Docket No. A-4153-18
Decided April 7, 2021
Submitted by New Jersey Family Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision the Appellate Division reviewed a trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion to vacate a custody and child support order entered nearly 8 years ago.
In K.A.B., plaintiff and defendant have one child, K.P., who was born in New Jersey in March 2010. Plaintiff was living in New Jersey at the time but later returned to Arkansas. Several Family Part orders have been entered involving child support and custody.
On August 24, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint requesting sole legal and physical custody of K.P., and for removal to Arkansas. He filed an order to show cause shortly after seeking emergent relief. After a hearing on September 13, 2010, the Family Part judge denied plaintiff’s order to show cause, ordered joint legal custody to the parents and granted plaintiff open and liberal visitation.
The case returned to court the next month. Custody continued as previously ordered. Mediation was ordered because plaintiff was moving to Arkansas.
In October 2010, the parties entered into a Consent Order where they agreed to joint legal custody, defendant was designated as the parent of primary residence (PPR) and plaintiff was accorded parenting time. A parenting time schedule was attached to the order. The parties agreed to return for additional mediation, but the subsequent mediation was not successful. The court ordered the prior orders to remain in effect.
In March 2011, plaintiff’s motion for removal was denied without prejudice. The court again ordered joint legal custody with defendant designated as the PPR. The order addressed other issues such as medical and educational records, doctor’s appointments, and parenting time. Plaintiff was to provide income information in ten days to calculate child support. If he did not, defendant could file a motion to request the imputation of income.
On June 7, 2011, plaintiff’s motions for reconsideration were denied (the June 7, 2011 child support order). The court again ordered that the parties have joint legal custody and that defendant is the PPR. Plaintiff was ordered to pay $150 per week in child support.
Plaintiff filed a number of motions. These were heard by a different Family Part judge, who issued an order and a fifty-five-page opinion on March 8, 2012 (the March 8, 2012 order).
A few months later, defendant filed an order to show cause. By order dated October 1, 2012, the Family Part judge found plaintiff was in violation of litigant’s rights for not returning the child to New Jersey as ordered (the October 1, 2012 suspension order). The order “suspended indefinitely” plaintiff’s parenting time with the child until further court order. Plaintiff was to submit to a psychological evaluation in New Jersey by a psychologist/psychiatrist appointed by the court. The court denied without prejudice defendant’s request for sole legal and residential custody at this time
Plaintiff filed a motion to terminate child support in November 2018. He argues that the June 7, 2011 child support order altered the parties’ 2010 Consent Order because that order did not provide for child support. He alleges the October 1, 2012 suspension order was entered ex parte and indefinitely suspended or terminated his parental rights. He argues he was not afforded a plenary hearing. Plaintiff argues the June 7, 2011 child support order was entered without consent and violated federal and state regulations.
The judge denied plaintiff’s motion, finding that plaintiff did not appeal the previous order and only now seeks to uproot the order that was put into place on adequate grounds. Plaintiff’s requests were each found to be meritless. There was no basis to overturn child support, the grounds for custody were for the best interest of the child at the time, and a plenary hearing was not necessary. Plaintiff’s argument for the matter to be placed on a complex track and that the Court lacked jurisdiction were also denied. Plaintiff appealed and the Appellate Division affirmed on the same grounds.
This case is important to understand that Court orders and agreements between parties for custody, child support, alimony, parenting time, educational expenses, insurance, etc. are standing court orders that can only be changed through limited means. A motion for reconsideration can be filed, but this must be done within 20 days of the order and there are limited grounds for which reconsideration can be granted. Another way to change an order would be to appeal the order, which can take time for a result and family judge’s are given tremendous deference. Changed circumstances could warrant a change of a court order upon the appropriate application. An application to change a court order just because you disagree with the order is hardly grounds to change it, as seen above. Your best opportunity is to make sure the original order or agreement is in your best interests, otherwise you may be stuck with results that are unsatisfying.
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