ZAHIA H. AWAD and MOUNIR SAAD, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
MARY IBRAHIM, Defendant-Respondent.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 9, 2013.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FD-09-1505-03.
Zahia H. Awad and Mounir Saad, appellants pro se.
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Before Judges Lihotz and Maven.
Plaintiffs appeal from the June 28, 2012 Family Part order terminating court-supervised visitation with their grandson, K.A. We affirm.
The relevant facts follow. Defendant and Reda Aziz (father), both natives of Egypt, were married in Egypt in 1996, and have one child, K.A., born in 1997. In 2001, the family moved to New Jersey. In January 2002, the court granted custody of K.A. to defendant. Father voluntarily returned to Egypt shortly thereafter in January 2002. Subsequently, the court awarded father court-supervised telephonic parenting time from his home in Egypt.
In 2003, in a separate action, the court awarded plaintiffs, K.A.'s paternal grandparents, and certain paternal relatives, visitation with then six-year-old K.A. through the Hudson County Supervised Visitation Program. The order called for supervision by an off-duty police officer and the submission of periodic monitoring reports by the Visitation Coordinator. Thereafter, the order was revised several times, clarifying and adjusting the details of the visitation.
The court suspended plaintiffs' visitation in December 2008 to evaluate the supervision requirement. In the course of its review, the court considered a monitoring report, and interviewed then twelve-year-old K.A. The court, and defendant, learned that plaintiffs were not in New Jersey, but in Egypt, where they had been for several months. In a May 2009 ruling terminating the visitation order, the court determined that in plaintiffs absence, the paternal aunt had no standing under N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1 (the "grandparents visitation statute") to enforce the visitation order.
Upon returning to New Jersey, plaintiffs filed a motion to reinstate court-supervised visitation with K.A. Defendant opposed the motion and filed a cross-motion arguing the request undermined her parental autonomy. Defendant, citing Moriarty v. Bradt, 177 N.J. 84, 88 (2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1177, 124 S.Ct. 1408, 158 L.Ed.2d 78 (2004), argued plaintiffs failed to plead or present proof that visitation was necessary to avoid harm to K.A. In her brief and certification, defendant acknowledged that she initially agreed to the visitation arrangement because she felt it was a good way for the child to maintain a relationship with the paternal family since the father was unable to re-enter the United States. However, K.A. began to resist, and informed defendant that he no longer wanted to go to the visits. After considering the opposing motions, the court reinstated plaintiffs' court-supervised visitation.
In 2012, defendant petitioned the court to terminate visitation due to K.A.'s refusal to attend court-supervised sessions. On May 17, 2012, the court ordered supervised visits to cease, but permitted plaintiffs, the paternal relatives, and K.A. to continue unsupervised visits every other month beginning June 18, 2012. In addition, the court granted K.A. the liberty to contact his father during plaintiffs' visitation time.
Defendant filed an Order to Show Cause to immediately terminate the visits, insisting that her son would continue to refuse to cooperate. Defendant attached a letter from K.A. expressing that he no longer wanted to visit with his father's side of the family. He wrote that he had been "doing [the visits] since 2003 or 2002 and [had] become old enough to decide for [himself] what [he] should do." Although the judge denied the Order ...