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July 2021


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School is out and summer is here. Millions of people are now vaccinated for COVID-19 and interstate travel is no longer discouraged. It makes sense that parents want to take the kids for a long-distance trip or out-of-state vacation. But how do newly divorced parents negotiate summer custody? What if one parent is comfortable with interstate or even international travel, and the other parent wants the kids to stay close to home? And wouldn’t a three week vacation interfere with the other parent’s joint custody schedule?

 Summer Custody Order

Usually, parents will dictate what summer custody will look like in a parenting plan. For example, co-parents might alternate who has custody of the kids for Fourth of July or Labor Day. However, if you or your ex plan to take your shared children out of state, and especially if you are planning international travel, you must notify the other parent well in advance, preferably before you book airfare or other travel arrangements. The other parent must consent to the travel and has a right to know about the itinerary including your plans and where you will be staying. The other parent also has the right to decline allowing the children to attend. If you and your co-parent are deadlocked about summer custody or summer plans, you may benefit from arranging mediation facilitated by attorneys for both sides, but refer to your custody order or parenting plan first. Courts do not like to get involved in summer vacation disputes, but if your spouse is threatening to take the kids out of state or out of the country, it is crucial you take action.

Summer Fun and COVID-19

While children over 12 are now eligible for vaccines, young children cannot be inoculated yet, and there is no indication from officials as to when smaller children and toddlers can receive the shot. Although many children do not seem to experience symptoms if infected with the virus, other children have developed serious side effects and secondary diseases, including Kawasaki Disease. Even if your child does not seem sick, it is possible they are positive and could unknowingly spread the disease to other family members, extended family, or complete strangers.

So, how can you travel safely this summer? Get tested for COVID-19 several days before leaving for your trip. If anyone in your family is positive, stay home and have a staycation. Obtain travel insurance and be sure to book a refundable rate on a hotel where you will not be penalized for a last-minute cancellation. When you return back from your trip, get tested again to ensure you are not positive, and quarantine for a few days. Bring emergency supplies, important travel documents and plenty of hand sanitizer. Explain to your children that health and safety come first. 

Contact Our Morristown Family Law Attorneys at Eveland & Foster, LLC

Summertime is supposed to be stress-free, and your kids deserve to relax and enjoy it. However, it is imperative you and your co-parent adhere to the provisions of your parenting plan and notify the other parent of vacation plans. If your ex is not honoring your custody order or is threatening to take your children, contact our attorneys at Eveland and Foster, LLC. With decades of combined experience handling all types of family law cases and a convenient location in Morristown, we would be glad to assist you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Obtaining a Default Divorce Judgment in New Jersey

Alison filed a complaint about an absolute divorce against her husband, Jeff, two months ago. He moved into an apartment over a year ago since they separated, and she knows she has the correct address. After he did not respond, she sent a subsequent copy to his office location via a private process server, and he still has not responded by answer or pre-trial motion. How long must Alison wait until she contacts the Court, and can she obtain a default divorce judgment?

Procedural Steps for Obtaining a Default Order  

To obtain a default order in a family court case, the plaintiff must file a request to enter default with the family court where they filed the complaint. The request must accompany proof of previous filings and attempts made with the Defendant including proof of service of process or attempts of service of process, and that at least 35 days has passed since the complaint was filed. See Rule 4-43. Usually a court hearing is set within a month wherein the court will grant the Plaintiff a final judgment of divorce, but only if there are no other contested issues.

If the parties share children and there is a dispute as to custody, child support, alimony, or property distribution, the plaintiff must file a notice of proposed final judgment with their request to enter default. The notice contains a financial statement from the plaintiff itemizing assets and liabilities, monthly expenses and what, if anything, the plaintiff is requesting the defendant pay. The plaintiff must also serve a copy of both notices with the defendant at least three weeks in advance of a court hearing on the entry of default.

 Exceptions or Challenges to an Order of Default

If the defendant simply made a mistake or thought they filed an answer but did not, they may have a few options. The defendant can ask for the court to set aside the default judgment by filing a motion to vacate an entry of default. See NJ. Rules of Procedure 4-43. For the default judgment to be set aside, the defendant must show cause for why the default judgment should be overturned. They might argue they were unable to respond due to excusable neglect, meaning circumstances beyond their control prevented them from filing an answer. If the defendant was traveling out of the country for work, was not currently living at the location papers were served, or if the defendant was incarcerated at the time of service, he could argue that service was not proper and that he should be β€œexcused” for not answering in a timely manner.

The defendant must establish that they have a meritorious defense, meaning there are significant issues ripe for settlement or a trial in the divorce case, perhaps pertaining to alimony determination, an incorrect child support calculation, or equitable division of property. The defendant must argue that they could prevail on one of these contested manners, and not allowing the case to continue would be unjust. Finally, the defendant must make a showing to the court that they acted in due diligence to set aside the default. Responding the next day would meet this requirement. Responding four months later is unlikely to change the outcome of a default judgment, and the onus is on the defendant to prove invalid or improper service.

Contact the Preeminent New Jersey Family Law Attorneys at Eveland and Foster, LLC

Divorce is complicated enough without worrying about whether your ex will respond to a complaint or show up in court. Plaintiffs are not expected to put their life on hold for a year while the defendant takes their time deciding how or when to respond, if at all. That is why the mechanism of default judgments exists. However, additional procedural rules must be followed in order for a hearing to be set. If you have questions about default judgments or the divorce process in general, call our family law attorneys at Eveland and Foster.

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