Law Lessons from PATRICIA L. KOEPPEL VS. JUSTIN M. PIERSON, App. Div., A-3519-11T1, May 14, 2013:
A decision concerning custody or visitation is up to the sound discretion of the judge. See Randazzo v. Randazzo, 184 N.J. 101, 113 (2005).
A judge must consider a request for modification of a custody or visitation order in accordance with the procedural framework established in Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 157-59 (1980). To establish a prima facie case for modification of a visitation arrangement, the moving party must show a substantial change in circumstances and that the changed circumstances affect the welfare of the child such that his or her best interests would best be served by modifying the current arrangement. Hand v. Hand, 391 N.J. Super. 102, 105 (App. Div. 2007). In evaluating whether the requisite changed circumstances exist, the court must consider the circumstances that existed at the time the current order was entered. Sheehan v. Sheehan, 51 N.J. Super. 276, 287-88 (App. Div. 1958). After considering those facts, the court can then “ascertain what motivated the original judgment and determine whether there has been any change in circumstances.” Id. at 288.
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