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Neal v. Corby

September 30, 2010


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FD-07-1738-06.

Per curiam.


Submitted September 14, 2010

Before Judges Baxter and Koblitz.

Plaintiff Leticia Neal appeals from orders entered on July 14 and August 7, 2009, allowing defendant to have unsupervised daytime visitation with the parties' six-year-old daughter, A. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

Plaintiff pro se previously appealed a March 23, 2007, order allowing defendant unsupervised overnight visitation. That appeal was unopposed. We remanded for the trial court "to reconsider the question of unsupervised overnight visitation pending receipt of a current evaluation of defendant's mental health and Dr. [Mathias] Hagovsky's report." Neal v. Corby, No. A-4573-06 (App. Div. Apr. 17, 2008) (slip op. at 4). Psychologist Dr. Hagovsky is a child custody and visitation expert who was retained by plaintiff to perform a thorough evaluation of the family and make recommendations as to defendant's visitation.


Upon remand, the trial court did reconsider and ordered supervised visitation. On January 27, 2009, the supervised visitation coordinator, Nasirah K. Shaw, a judiciary employee, wrote to the court reporting that the bi-weekly, two-hour supervised visits, which began on August 23, 2008, had proceeded successfully. According to Ms. Shaw, the child interacted well with her father and enjoyed spending time with him. Ms. Shaw recommended unsupervised visitation.

The court convened a hearing on April 3, 2009, at which both parties were represented by counsel and Dr. Hagovsky's report was reviewed. Dr. Hagovsky reviewed all of the allegations of the plaintiff. One involved a ten-year-old final restraining order filed by a third party against defendant, which was entered in his absence. Another concern was an incident when the three-year-old child was brought to the hospital for an elbow dislocation when the defendant's aunt grabbed her to prevent a fall. Plaintiff voiced various other concerns. After he reviewed voluminous information, Dr. Hagovsky prepared a thorough, twelve-page, single-spaced report recommending:

Once medical clearance is provided, Mr.

Corby should continue to exercise parenting time with [A.] on a once-weekly basis... Initially a supervisor (this could be an agreed-upon relative) should be present but after six visits, the requirement should be lessened so that the supervisor be present during approximately half of the parenting time. [A.] should be introduced to a child therapist with whom she would meet after each two visits with her father to talk about her experiences, and to field any concerns expressed to the therapist by either parent... Eventually, a normalized parenting time schedule is anticipated wherein [A.] would exercise parenting time with her father on an every other weekend basis and perhaps one visit during the week for dinner.

Dr. Hagovsky also stated that defendant, who had previously been diagnosed as suffering from bi-polar disorder and attention deficit disorder (ADD), did not exhibit symptoms of bi-polar disorder nor any current problems from ADD, which earlier in life had impaired his educational progress. Defendant had been prescribed two medications which negatively affected his liver function, so he discontinued taking both prescription drugs. The diagnosis of bi-polar disorder without treatment was of concern to Dr. Hagovsky. He was less concerned about the ADD.

Dr. Hagovsky found that the interaction between defendant and his daughter was "comfortable and positive." A. enjoyed spending time with her father. After reviewing Dr. Hagovsky's report, the judge permitted defendant unsupervised visits every other Sunday from 2:15 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in a public place. The court ordered that visits occur in a public place rather than with a supervisor because the parties could not agree on a mutually acceptable supervisor.

Plaintiff requested a stay of this April 3 order which was denied on April 21, 2009. On that date, the judge also ordered both parties to undergo a full psychiatric evaluation with court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Ambrose O. Mgbako,*fn1 ...

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