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J.M. v. J.R.

April 15, 2010

J.M., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
J.R., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hunterdon County, Docket No. FD-10-110-07 and Middlesex County, Docket No. FV-10-282-07.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 17, 2010

Before Judges Payne and Waugh.

Defendant J.R., appeals the November 14, 2008, order of the Family Part denying his application for joint custody of the parties' minor child, a change in parenting time, a reduction in child support, and related relief, as well as the January 16, 2009, order denying his motion for reconsideration. We affirm the orders, but remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

We discern the following factual and procedural background from the record. J.R. and plaintiff J.M. have a daughter who was born in January 2007. They had a dating relationship but never married.

On January 31, 2007, J.M. filed a non-dissolution complaint (FD-10-110-07) seeking custody, the establishment of a parenting-time schedule, and support. An order for support was entered on the recommendation of a child support hearing officer on March 9, 2007. The custody and parenting-time issues were referred to mediation, which was unsuccessful.

On April 20, 2007, the first Family Part judge assigned to the matter entered an order establishing a parenting-time schedule for J.R. The judge's reasons are not reflected in the record. Initially, J.R. was to have parenting time on alternate weekends, but without overnights. His parenting time was to be expanded to include three weekdays a week, as of May 18, 2007. The order does not contain a provision with respect to custody, although it is implicit in the order that the child will reside with J.M.

On May 18, 2007, J.M. filed a complaint (FV-10-282-07) seeking a restraining order pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. A different Family Part judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the same day. Among other relief, the TRO granted J.M. temporary custody of the parties' daughter and suspended J.R.'s parenting time. The same judge entered an amended TRO on May 24, 2007, giving J.R. supervised parenting time on three dates prior to the adjourned date for the final hearing.

The first Family Part judge entered a second amended TRO on June 1, 2007, providing for additional supervised parenting time pending completion of the domestic violence trial. He entered a final restraining order (FRO) on June 19, 2007, having found that J.R. had engaged in domestic violence. The FRO continued temporary custody with J.M. and established a parenting-time hearing for July 2007. On July 10, 2007, the judge entered an order awarding counsel fees to J.M.

It appears that the parenting-time hearing scheduled for July 2007 did not take place. On August 24, 2007, a third Family Part judge heard J.M.'s application for an increase in child support to include childcare costs and the payment of arrears. J.R. was ordered to pay sixty-five percent of childcare costs, and an arrears-payment schedule was established.

On October 18, 2007, a fourth Family Part judge held a case management conference in the domestic violence action. She entered an amended FRO that continued temporary custody with J.M. and set forth a parenting-time schedule similar to the one that existed prior to the commencement of the domestic violence ...


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