Guardianship Claim Denied for Dearth of Evidence

In re A.S.E., Docket No. A-1873-21, 2023 WL 2335703 (N.J. Super. App. Div. March 3, 2023)

This matter concerns an appeal by a father (Greg) of an order denying his requests for: (1) removal of his ex-spouse (Liz) as guardian of their incapacitated son (Adam), and (2) appointment of Greg as Adam’s guardian.  Greg also appealed a related reconsideration motion.  Both Greg and Liz argued pro se.

The parties were divorced and pursuant to their marital settlement agreement, Liz had sole and exclusive authority over all medical and education decisions concerning Adam.  Despite the agreement, Greg argued that removal was appropriate because Liz was a “bad guardian.” Id. at *1.  He also argued that Adam was being mistreated at a New Jersey residential treatment facility where Adam was residing.  As to these arguments, the trial court found that Greg had not presented a scintilla of evidence to support his claim that Liz failed to perform her guardianship duties or was otherwise a “bad guardian.”  The court further found that the facility in which Adam resided was a qualified facility and, in any event, no credible evidence of neglect had been presented.  The court entered an order denying Greg’s request for removal of Liz and denied Greg’s subsequent reconsideration motion.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed, citing: (1) great deference to a trial court’s factfinding; (2) the strong public policy in favor of settlement of litigation; and (3) broad discretionary authority of a judge to appoint a guardian, confer guardianship over a ward’s affairs, and remove a guardian.  In addition, the court also cited “Greg’s admission that he filed ‘countless motions to move [Adam] to California,’ and those motions were ‘denied by countless judges.’”  Id. at *4.