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K.K. v. W.L.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 12, 2013

K.K., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
W.L., Defendant-Respondent.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 29, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, Docket No. FM-04-609-02.

Law Office of Louis G. Guzzo, attorneys for appellant (Mr. Guzzo, on the brief).

Scott T. Schweiger, attorney for respondent.

Before Judges Harris and Hoffman.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiff mother appeals from a December 20, 2012 Family Part order that transferred, "temporarily and without prejudice, " primary residential custody of her then thirteen-year-old son, T.L. (Trent), [1] to defendant, her ex-husband, who lives in Virginia. Because the record provides no indication that the Family Part made the necessary findings and conclusions in support of its decision, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I.

Plaintiff and defendant married in 1998 and divorced in 2002. They had one child, Trent, born in 1999. Plaintiff also has two other children, Nigel, born in 1995, and Derek, born in 2003.

Following an eight-day trial in 2004, plaintiff was awarded primary residential custody of Trent, with both parents sharing joint legal custody. Since the completion of the custody trial, the parties have returned to court over a dozen times addressing issues of custody and parenting time.

On September 19, 2012, defendant filed a motion seeking transfer of residential custody of Trent to him. In the motion, defendant claimed that Trent provided him information that Nigel engaged in illegal drug activity. Additionally, defendant claimed there was a history of violence between Nigel and Trent, and alleged that Nigel had been adjudicated in juvenile court based upon a past assault of Trent. Defendant further claimed that Trent repeatedly stated he wanted to live with him due to constant arguing, fighting, and other issues in his mother's home.

On the return date of the motion, the judge heard oral argument and determined that the issues presented warranted further investigation and review. The judge ordered Nigel to submit to a hair follicle test within fifteen days. On December 3, 2012, she conducted in camera interviews of both Trent and Nigel.[2] The judge next held a telephone conference with counsel on December 20, 2012.[3] At the conclusion of the conference, the judge entered the order under review, which provided, in pertinent part:

1. The parties are to share joint legal custody of [Trent] . . . with father as [Parent of Primary Residence] and mother as [Parent of Alternate ...

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