In Madison v. Davis, divorced parents of a pre-school aged child returned back to court, less than four months after they entered into a matrimonial settlement agreement in 2013. This Ocean County case initially started over a dispute involving the mother’s decision to change daycares from Pre-school A to Pre-school B. According to the settlement agreement, the mother had primary residential custody and both parents shared joint legal custody. Since both parents worked, their three year old attended Pre-school A at the time of the divorce. The parents also agreed to equally split the cost of work-related childcare. The settlement agreement, however did not address whether the mother was required to keep the child at Pre-school A, or whether she was restricted from changing daycares. Mother wanted to change pre-schools primarily due to the swimming classes offered at Pre-school B. The court also noted that Pre-school A had credentialing issues which stemmed from investigations into apparent state violations. Father argued that mother wanted to switch schools after an alleged dispute arose with the director of Pre-school A when father signed the child out without mother’s approval.
The court was unconvinced by the father objections that the switch burdened him and/or the child or their relationship and ruled mother’s decision to change the child’s pre-school as reasonable given that the cost, location, and services of both schools were similar and ordered the divorced parents to share the tuition costs of the new pre-school. In reaching its decision, the court analyzed two previous New Jersey cases in devising a seven-step inquiry that considered the following:
- whether the primary residential custodial parent is a working parent and needs to utilize daycare;
- reasonableness of school choice;
- obligation of mother to inform father of changes in a timely manner;
- whether father was able to show that the transfer was unreasonable and not in the best interests of the child;
- complaints from father about Pre-school B were deemed insufficient;
- court’s discretion to override mother’s choice of new school if it found unreasonable or if the new school was reasonable, court could approve new school; and
- court’s ability to order attorney’s fees or sanctions if either parent was acting unreasonable.
After the court rendered its decision, it criticized the parents, noting that the parents risked disrupting their young child’s life due to their lack of communication and court battles. The court warned the parents that it would order mandatory co-parent counseling if they returned back to court in the near future.
This was another Judge Jones opinion, which can be found here.
The Bronzino Law Firm: Working Out Divorced Parents’ Post Settlement Concerns
Working amicably with your ex-spouse to raise your children can be challenging and may require the assistance of a seasoned New Jersey Family Law Attorney. The Bronzino Law Firm, located in Brick, New Jersey serves the surrounding communities, including Ocean County and Monmouth County. To learn more about your legal options, please contact our office for a free initial consultation, (732) 812-3102. We look forward to hearing from you.