April 17, 2009
DULCE CUCO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
SANDRA MATOS AND RAFAEL CABRERA, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket No. FD-20-337-03.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 1, 2009
Before Judges Fisher and King.
This is a Family Part child custody appeal from Judge Kessler who granted custody of S., age about eleven, to her biological mother, Sandra Matos. Plaintiff Dulce Cuco, S.'s maternal grandmother, appeals.
The judge awarded both legal and residential custody to Sandra Matos but allowed generous visitation to the grandmother.
The court-appointed expert, Dr. Moorehead, favored the mother while the plaintiff's expert, Dr. Katz, favored "shared custody."
This was fundamentally a dispute of fact, and a question of sound judgment. The child's father, Rafael Cabrera, supported the mother's contentions. Judge Kessler found the plaintiff grandmother generally less credible than the mother and the mother a more suitable residential custodian.
The judge in a very thorough twenty-six page oral decision on January 24, 2008 recognized the presumption in favor of the natural mother over the grandmother in such situations. Watkins v. Nelson, 136 N.J. 235, 246 (2000). After making his credibility findings, and explaining his thought process, he ruled on custody in favor of the mother. We affirm on the opinion of Judge Kessler in the Family Part.
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