JENNIFER M. STEVENS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
AMIR A. SHAH, Defendant-Respondent.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued July 9, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FD-07-3868-08.
Jessica Rango Sprague argued the cause for appellant (Weinberger Law Group, LLC, attorneys; Ms. Sprague, on the brief).
Charles P. Cohen argued the cause for respondent.
Before Judges Ashrafi and St. John.
Plaintiff Jennifer M. Stevens appeals from a November 14, 2012 order of the Family Part which continued joint legal custody of the parties' child, but awarded temporary physical custody of the child to defendant Amir A. Shah. We reverse and remand.
I. We briefly summarize the relevant procedural history and the facts based on the record before us.
The child was born in September 2007. Plaintiff and defendant were never married. Plaintiff lives in Ohio and defendant lives in New Jersey. Pursuant to an August 8, 2008 judgment, the parties shared joint legal and physical custody of the child, alternating physical custody on a two month basis. The judgment reflected that this arrangement would continue until the child entered kindergarten, at which time the parties had to reevaluate the custody arrangement. The child was due to enter kindergarten in September, 2012, but the parties failed to address the child's place of residence whether it be Ohio or New Jersey.
On July 10, 2012, defendant filed an application for a modification of custody and parenting time seeking to be designated the parent of primary residence. On August 20, 2012, plaintiff filed a cross-application seeking denial of defendant's application, granting her residential custody of the child, ordering a best interest evaluation, and scheduling of a plenary hearing.
On August 31, 2012, the motion judge issued an order that the Essex Vicinage Family Division conduct a best interest investigation as to the child. On November 5, 2012, the judge held a motion hearing and took testimony from the parties. On November 14, 2012, the judge issued an order stating:
For reasons stated on the record, joint legal custody of the child shall continue with [plaintiff] and [defendant]. Temporary physical custody of the child shall remain with the [defendant]. The child shall remain in the Union School System. The [plaintiff] is granted liberal parenting time with ...