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Colleen Knight v. Christopher Knight

July 2, 2012

COLLEEN KNIGHT, N/K/A COLLEEN BRUSNAHAN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FM-04-1609-10.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 7, 2012

Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.

Defendant Christopher Knight appeals from a July 15, 2011 order entered approximately six months after his divorce from plaintiff Colleen Knight. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

Pursuant to their separation agreement, plaintiff and defendant share joint custody of their eight-year-old son, plaintiff being the parent of primary residence. Defendant has parenting time every other weekend from Friday after work to Sunday at 6:00 p.m., and every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday after work through 7:00 p.m. Defendant picks up the child at the start of the visit, and plaintiff picks the child up from defendant's home at the end. The agreement also required defendant to satisfy a debt to a retailer for the cost of bunk beds which he kept.

Plaintiff filed a motion seeking to modify the parenting schedule on the basis that the drive was "taxing" on her and the child, and that the schedule did not allow her sufficient time with her son, or for the child to spend with his friends. She suggested defendant's parenting time be rescheduled to every other weekend from Thursday after school to Sunday at 6:00 p.m. and that two, if not all, of the weeknight visits be eliminated. Plaintiff also requested, in the alternative, that defendant assume responsibility for all of the weekday driving. She also sought to enforce litigant's rights, requiring defendant to pay the still outstanding bill for the bunk beds. Defendant filed a cross-motion to become the parent of primary residence, modify child support, and grant plaintiff limited parenting time.

As to the debt, defendant reported that he had negotiated a reduction in payment of $1265.80 with the retailer and paid the balance in full. Plaintiff's counsel as a result argued that the account adjustment could theoretically cause plaintiff to owe additional income taxes for which defendant should be liable.

At oral argument, defendant appeared pro se, and the oath was administered to both parties. The Family Part judge then attempted to elicit on the record any additional change in circumstances that warranted a change in the current schedule, in addition to the substantial information each party supplied in his or her written submissions. The judge ultimately decided that the "simple solution[,]" one in the best interests of the child, would be to require defendant to drive the child directly from any week night activities scheduled on his parenting days back to plaintiff's home, in order to spare the child the additional travel time of going from the activity to defendant's home, and from there to plaintiff's home.

Because the judge was not entirely confident that the document defendant produced corroborated his assertion that the debt had in fact been paid, the order states that defendant was required to satisfy the debt within thirty days. He was also required to reimburse plaintiff any additional taxes that might be imposed by May 15, 2012. The judge awarded plaintiff $300 in counsel fees.

Defendant raises the following points on appeal:

A. AS A MATTER OF LAW, THE TRIAL COURT'S FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW WITH REGARD TO APPELLANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY AND CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS WERE UNSUPPORTED BY OR INCONSISTENT WITH THE COMPETENT, RELEVANT AND REASONABLY CREDIBLE EVIDENCE

1. The Trial Court Erred By Failing To Make Sufficient Findings Of Fact In Accordance With New Jersey Court [Rule] 1:7-4(a) And [N.J.S.A.] 9:2-4(f)

2. The Factual Findings And Legal Conclusions Of The Trial Court Are So Manifestly Unsupported By Or Inconsistent With The Competent, Relevant And Reasonably Credible ...


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