On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, FM-02-775-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 24, 2007
Before Judges Lintner and Sabatino.
Kim Internoscia ("the mother") appeals an October 20, 2006 order of the Family Part. The order denied the mother's post-judgment motion to transfer from David Internoscia ("the father") primary residential custody of the parties' twin daughters. The order also denied the mother's application to lift previously-imposed restraints on the daughters' contact with the mother's boyfriend. We affirm.
After an eight-year marriage, the parties divorced on August 29, 2005. They have two children, twin girls who were born in March 2002. Pursuant to the agreed-upon terms of the Final Judgment of Divorce ("FJD"), both parties would share legal custody of the twins, with the mother designated as the parent with primary residential custody. The father was allotted parenting time on alternate weekends and two other evenings per week, one of them a weekday overnight.
The FJD also specified that the mother's boyfriend, who she had begun seeing when the parties had separated, would not be allowed in the children's presence. That prohibition arose out of facts uncovered by a private investigator hired by the father during the pendency of the divorce, who discovered that the boyfriend had a suspended driver's license that would not be restored until the year 2012, multiple DUI convictions, and a conviction in North Carolina for the possession of drug paraphernalia.
Within days of the uncontested divorce proceeding, the mother embarked on a vacation with the twins and her boyfriend, in violation of the FJD. The father promptly sought an emergent transfer of primary custody of the twins. As a result of that application, the Family Part ordered on September 30, 2005, that the parties would have temporary shared physical custody of the twins, pending a court-ordered custody evaluation, drug testing, and a full hearing.
The mother's drug tests of September 2005 and November 2005 revealed amphetamines in her system, and the October 2005 test showed that her urine specimen had been diluted. She contended that the positive results were caused by diet pills she had been prescribed, and that she had stopped taking them in November 2005.
Between January and March of 2006, Dr. Judith Brown Greif, D.S.W., performed a court-ordered custody evaluation. The evaluation involved a series of interviews with the mother and father, both alone and accompanied by their children. Additionally, Dr. Greif interviewed the mother's boyfriend, the twins' daycare teachers, and the father's therapist.
In her twenty-page report to the court and the parties, Dr. Greif concluded in March 2006 that, although both parents were loving and attentive to the twins, the father demonstrated "a better ability to separate out his own needs from those of the children." Dr. Greif further opined:
While there is no question about [the mother's] attachment to the children, she has demonstrated poor judgment and a diminished understanding of the consequences of her actions. She has made [her boyfriend] a priority in her life and has disobeyed [c]court [o]rders and placed her access to the children at risk because of her desire to be with him.
As an example of the mother's "poor judgment," Dr. Greif cited her taking a family vacation with the girls and her boyfriend in disregard of the FJD. The expert also noted the mother had asked her boyfriend to drive her car, despite knowing that he had no license.
In her interview with Dr. Greif about these matters, the mother claimed that, at the time of her vacation, she did not understand the court's order restricting the twins' contact with her boyfriend. Moreover, she claimed that she did not think the father would enforce it. However, the mother also admitted to Dr. Greif that she had explained the prohibition to her boyfriend prior to their vacation. As to the incident of the boyfriend driving her car without a valid license, ...