New Jersey parenting time guidelines strive to ensure fairness in all aspects of child rearing – and that includes transporting children between co-parent households. This extends to an equitable share of driving to and from school and extracurricular activities.
In a recent parenting time case before the New Jersey Court of Appeals, the issue of transportation was on the table.
In this case, the couple was married for 11 years and had one child together. The divorce settlement granted joint custody, with primary residential custody awarded to the mother. Father was to pay weekly child support and 80 percent of healthcare costs. At the time, both parents lived in the same New Jersey suburb. They agreed to share alternating weekends with the child. Father picked the girl up after work Friday and brought her back to her mother’s by evening Sunday. The agreement explicitly stated the father was responsible for all transportation of his parenting time unless both parties shared a mutual agreement otherwise.
At one point, the mother moved to an adjacent state for a job, but later agreed (at father’s request) to return to New Jersey. The father agreed he would temporarily drive to and from mother’s out-of-state residence for his parenting time until the mother could move back. However, the agreement didn’t address who should handle the driving after that.
The mother returned, but to a different city. The father asked the court to order shared transportation responsibilities for parenting time. He also asked that his child support obligation be reduced due to a change in circumstance. Mother opposed this, seeking increased child support, greater financial responsibility for extracurricular activities and full responsibility for parenting time transportation.
The judge decided to grant the father’s motion with respect to transportation, directing the pair to agree to pick-up and drop-off locations that were equidistant between their respective homes. The judge also agreed to reduce his child support.
The mother appealed, arguing she initially agreed to a modest child support sum in exchange for the father to do all the driving for his own parenting time. Further, she argued there was not a change in circumstances sufficient to warrant reduced child support, especially considering her income was was slashed because she’d been compelled to move back to New Jersey.
The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s decision, finding that equal division of driving responsibilities with a negotiated meeting point was fair. Renegotiation of the transportation plan to account for the mother’s move to a different state and then to a different city was equitable, as the two parties now lived considerably farther away than they did when the original settlement agreement was approved.
Bottom line here is that transportation, like all other elements of parenting time, should be addressed with clear provisions during the negotiation phase. Planning and preparing for the possibility of changing circumstances is important, as is amicable communication where possible. Transportation responsibilities may seem like a relatively minor issue, but they can have a significant impact on one’s daily life. Work with a dedicated Freehold family law attorney during parenting time negotiations and modifications to ensure no aspect of the agreement is overlooked.
Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.