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Landre v. Dodd

August 5, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. FD-13-144-09B.

Per curiam.


Argued February 23, 2010

Before Judges Wefing, Grall and LeWinn.

The parties are the parents of a son born August 10, 2007; each also has a child from other relationships. Within one year of their child's birth, the parties separated and custody proceedings ensued in the Family Part. On August 8, 2008, the trial judge entered an order providing that the parties would share joint legal custody of the child, with plaintiff serving as the primary residential custodian; defendant was afforded parenting time on alternate weekends from 2:30 p.m. Friday to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday on the other weekends, and overnight from 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The determination of child support was deferred pending submission of financial documentation from both parties.

Plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the parenting time schedule, claiming that the judge erred in granting defendant parenting time every Sunday because it interfered with plaintiff's desire to attend church services and Sunday school with the child. She also sought to change the Tuesday parenting time from overnight to ending at 8:00 p.m.

Plaintiff also submitted a proposed holiday visitation schedule, providing that, among other things, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day would be alternated. Defendant filed a cross-motion opposing plaintiff's request to modify parenting time; he essentially agreed with plaintiff's proposed holiday visitation schedule but sought to change "which party has even years versus which party gets odd years for the major holidays." Defendant also addressed child support and appended a shared parenting child support guidelines worksheet which calculated his obligation at $116 per week.

Plaintiff filed a reply certification protesting defendant's position that child support should be calculated pursuant to a shared parenting worksheet, since defendant had failed to show that he maintained "separate living accommodations for the child." Specifically, plaintiff certified that defendant lived in a one-bedroom apartment and not only did not maintain a separate bedroom for their child, but also had overnight parenting time with his other child. Therefore, she asserted, defendant did not incur any additional expense in having their child overnight.

The judge heard oral argument on October 20, 2008, and entered an order modifying defendant's parenting time to afford plaintiff nine Sundays a year "at her discretion"; setting a holiday parenting time schedule; and setting defendant's child support obligation at $168 per week pursuant to a shared parenting worksheet. This worksheet also afforded defendant a credit of twenty-two dollars per week for his cost of providing health insurance for the parties' child.

Thereafter, the parties engaged in a series of correspondence with the judge, defendant seeking credit for a $350 child support obligation for his other child, and plaintiff continuing to protest use of the shared parenting worksheet; plaintiff also challenged the twenty-two dollar health insurance premium credit, claiming that defendant carries insurance for his other child and had provided no proof that he incurred any additional cost to insure the parties' child.

On November 19, 2008, the judge issued an amended order based on the correspondence without hearing any further oral argument. This order reduced defendant's child support obligation to $125 per week,*fn1 and modified the Thanksgiving visitation schedule in light of a complaint by plaintiff.

On appeal, plaintiff raises the following issues for our consideration:

1.) The [t]rial [c]court erred in determining the shared parenting schedule for the minor child, specifically, granting the [d]efendant parenting time every Sunday because doing so failed to adequately appreciate bo[n]ding between [the child] and [plaintiff's] children/family, interferes with quality weekend time for [plaintiff] and interferes with [plaintiff's] right as primary custodial parent to make decisions with regard to [the child's] religious upbringing.

2.) The [t]rial [c]court failed to properly address the holidays and vacation period of parenting time, specifically regarding a ...

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