Once a parenting time schedule is established, parents’ next concern is the logistics with pick-up and drop-off. Even with a parenting time schedule memorialized issues arise: lateness, inconvenient locations, interference with children’s activities, etc. Most times these issues can be resolved amicably without judicial intervention. But occasionally an application must be filed with the Court to address these issues.
Recently, in the unpublished appellate decision of Devorak v. Devorak, A-4325-16T2,the Appellate Court reviewed such a case. The defendant in Devorak had filed a post-judgement motion to change the previously agreed upon driving responsibilities for visitation, amongst other issues. At the time of divorce, both parties resided in the same town and they agreed that they would share alternate weekends for parenting time with the child and the defendant would pick up their daughter after he was done with work on Friday evening and bring her back on Sunday. Defendant further agreed that he would “be responsible for all transportation for his parenting time, unless other arrangements [were] mutually agreed upon by the parties.”
Plaintiff later moved to New York City, but on November 22, 2013, the parties entered into a consent order where she agreed to relocate to New Jersey, and defendant agreed to temporarily provide transportation to and from his weekend parenting time until plaintiff moved back to New Jersey. However, the consent order did not address the parties’ driving responsibilities upon plaintiff’s relocation to New Jersey. Thereafter, plaintiff moved to Roseland, New Jersey and defendant moved to Ewing, New Jersey. On September 20, 2016, defendant filed a motion seeking an order compelling “[t]he parties to share equally the driving responsibilities regarding parenting time,” amongst other issues. Plaintiff cross-moved for an order compelling defendant to “be required to do all the traveling in connection [with] his visitations with the parties’ child . . . ,” amongst other things, and argued that defendant received the benefit of his bargain in that he did not have to pay alimony and paid “modest” child support in return for doing all of the driving.
Despite Plaintiff’s arguments, the Judge determined that “it [was] fair and equitable [for them] to share in the transportation responsibility[,]” and granted defendant’s motion for the parties to “equally share driving responsibilities for parenting time . . . .” The judge further ordered the parties to “agree [to] a pickup and drop off location equidistant between their current residences” of Ewing and Roseland. In rendering his decision, the Judge reviewed the history of the parties’ residences from the time of the final judgment of divorce, as well as earlier orders dealing with parenting time. On appeal, the Appellate Court stated that it agreed with the trial court’s decision for the reasons cited by the trial court judge, while also dismissing the appeal on procedural grounds.
Here is case where the parties bargained for a driving schedule at the time of their divorce, but due to subsequent decisions by the parties, including moving, the Court determined that the drop off logistics should be altered, despite the parties prior agreement. Whether or not you agree with the Court’s decision on this, the lesson to be learned is that these issues must be addressed with clear provisions at the time of negotiation. Being amicable with a former spouse is certainly the best way to co-parent, however it is smart to also be prepared for future circumstances to the extent they can be planned for. Driving responsibilities is one of those such issues.