Recently, a New Jersey appellate court issued an opinion involving a father’s appeal of a court’s order denying his requested modification to a visitation and child support order. The case illustrates the difficulties parents can have when seeking to change an existing court’s order, as well as the evidence necessary to successfully obtain such a modification.
The Facts of the Case
In the case Lopez v. Lopez, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-0955-21, Mother and Father were married in 2004 and had two children. Mother filed for divorce in December 2016. Because Father did not answer the complaint, the court entered a default judgment of divorce (“JOD”), dissolving the couple’s marriage.
The JOD awarded both parents joint legal custody of their children but gave Mother primary physical custody. Father was given parenting time on alternating weekends. Additionally, the JOD required Father to pay Mother $550 per week in alimony for twelve years and $271 per week in child support.
Soon after the divorce was final, Father fell behind in his support obligations. He was eventually incarcerated and, when he was released, sought to increase his parenting time to include mid-week visits, holidays, and vacations, as well as to decrease his support obligations. In response, Mother requested the court’s permission to move the children to Florida.
After unsuccessfully attending mediation, the parties presented their positions to the court. Father claimed that he was unable to work due based on health reasons but that he wanted to spend more time with his children. Mother claimed that Father was capable of working and that he declined to take her up on her offers of seeing the children more often. The parties also both criticized the other’s parenting.
Ultimately, the judge denied Father’s request for mid-week parenting time but granted him parenting time on vacations and holidays. The judge also denied Father’s request to reduce his child support and spousal support obligations, as well as Mother’s request to relocate to Florida. Father appealed.
The Appellate Court’s Decision
On appeal, Father challenged the court’s denial of his requested increase in mid-week parenting time as well as his request to reduce his support obligations. The court explained that these decisions were within the discretion of the trial court, which adequately considered the evidence presented before reaching its conclusions. For example, the trial court found that Father’s testimony was not credible regarding his inability to work; therefore, because Father failed to establish a “change in circumstances,” the court held that the trial judge did not abuse its discretion in denying Father’s request.
Are You Seeking to Modify Child Custody or Support Obligations?
If you were previously divorced and believe that the existing child custody or support obligations no longer reflect the realities of your life, reach out to Scully Law for immediate assistance. With over a decade of experience handling all types of divorce and alimony cases, Scully Family Law is prepared to aggressively advocate on your behalf to get you the results you are looking for. Claire Scully is a Freehold family law attorney who represents clients throughout New Jersey and New York in all types of family cases, including divorce, alimony, child support, and modification requests. We provide every client with custom-tailored services and undivided attention, including 24/7 availability by cell phone. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call us today at 743-462-1122. You can also reach us online through our convenient contact form.