Child Custody and Parenting

Compassionate New Jersey LawyersHandling Child Custody and Parenting Issues

The dissolution of a marriage has an impact on all family members. This is especially true of the children. New Jersey courts believe that in most cases it is best for children of divorce to maintain a positive relationship with both parents, and New Jersey law states that decisions in these cases should be made with the best interests of the children in mind.

There are two basic types of child custody: Residential Custody and Legal Custody.

Residential Custody in New Jersey

Residential custody, often called physical custody, refers to where the child will live. There are several variations; they range from joint custody, in which the child spends an equal or almost equal time with each parent, to sole custody, in which the child lives with one parent all or most of the time. What matters most is that the parenting time arrangement is created with the child’s needs in mind to the greatest extent possible.

Residential custody also has a bearing on the amount of child support one pays or receives. The more parenting time the parent with the most income has, the less child support that parent would be expected to pay.

Shared Residential Custody

Many divorce agreements call for shared residential custody. The child does not necessarily spend an equal amount of time with both parents, but does spend 105 days or more with each, plus some holidays and vacations.

Some divorced couples agree to joint residential custody in which the child spends an equal or almost equal amount of time with each. This is more likely to be successful when the ex-spouses live near one another.

Sole Residential Custody

If a child lives with one parent most of the time, that parent is said to have sole residential custody.

The time spent with the non-custodial parent is called parenting time. Although often referred to as visitation time, the term “parenting time” emphasizes the important role the court believes the non-custodial parent can and should play in the child’s life.

Legal Custody in New Jersey

While the everyday decisions that are made by the parent who has residential custody at that time, decisions about the larger questions affecting a child are made by the parent or parents with legal custody.

A parent with legal custody has the right to participate in decision-making regarding important issues such as which school the child will attend, the religion in which the child will be raised, and important medical and health matters.

Except in cases where one parent is unavailable or unfit, the court usually grants legal custody to both parents regardless of where the child lives most of the time.

Parenting Plans

In using the term “parenting time” rather than “visitation,” New Jersey courts acknowledge the importance both parents play in the lives of their children. Aretsky Law Group, P.C., can help you create a parenting plan that meets those needs and negotiate diligently to help you obtain that arrangement.

Circumstances often necessitate a change to your current child custody or parenting plan. As time passes, children’s needs change. Therefore, parenting plans usually have to be revised as the child matures.

If you want to change a child custody plan or parenting plan that is already in place and your spouse does not agree, we will help you with the modification and, if necessary, we will file a motion on your behalf. Conversely, if your ex-spouse wants to change a child custody plan or parenting plan that is already in place and you do not agree, we will litigate on your behalf to prevent the change.

Parental Relocation

Sometimes a parent wants to move out of New Jersey following a divorce. Some want to be nearer other family members who live in another state and who can provide support. Others may want to move to take advantage of a better job opportunity. Whatever the reason, when children are involved, matters become complicated.

In New Jersey, if a parent wants to move with a child to another state without the express permission of the child’s other parent, he or she must obtain permission from the Court.

If you are in the position of wanting to relocate or trying to stop the relocation of your child, you need the assistance of an attorney with a clear knowledge of New Jersey law.

In New Jersey, What Factors do the Courts Consider in a Child Custody Dispute?

If divorcing parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, family courts use the best-interests-of-the-child standard in determining which parent receives physical custody, how to divide custody, and other disputed matters. Traditionally, very young children were considered best off living with their mother (the “tender years” doctrine); however, the law is now supposed to be gender-neutral and that has tilted in favor of the child’s “primary caregiver” (which is often the mother). Among other things, courts will look at:

  • the quality of the relationship the child has with each parent and the efforts of the parent to be involved in the child’s life
  • the child’s personal preference if they are 12 or older
  • the educational and other needs of the child
  • the parents’ ability to cooperate and get along with each other
  • which parent can give the child the most stable home
  • parental fitness, which includes a parent’s history of substance abuse, domestic abuse, unlawful behavior, violent behavior, or other issues affecting their ability to give the child a secure environment. This will generally mitigate against a parent being granted sole or joint custody.
What is the Role of Mediation in New Jersey Child Custody Disputes?

In the event of a child custody or visitation dispute in a dissolution of marriage action, New Jersey family courts require an initial mediation session to attempt to hash out differences with the guidance of a court-appointed mediator. Attorneys are not required at mediation proceedings and there is no cost to the participants. The mediation requirement can be waived in cases of domestic violence or other such issues. If the parents come to an agreement on a parenting plan, they can seek a family lawyer’s counsel in obtaining an official court order; if no agreement can be reached, each parent can submit a proposed plan to the court and a judge will decide custody matters based on the child’s best interests.

How Does New Jersey Law Treat Child Custody Matters in the Case of Unmarried Parents?

Years ago, if a child was born out of wedlock, the child’s mother almost always retained physical and legal custody; unmarried fathers had few rights when it came to visitation and custody of their children. That has changed, and most states including New Jersey now generally treat custody matters identically whether the parents are married or unmarried, as long as the parent shows an active interest in being involved with the child’s upbringing and support. The unmarried father will have to legally establish his paternity by putting his name on the child’s birth certificate or otherwise officially recording himself as the child’s natural father. Unwed fathers who have openly held the child out as their own have the same rights and responsibilities toward the child as married fathers.

Aretsky Law Group, P.C., Attorneys Can Help!

Children’s issues are among the most emotionally charged in a divorce. Courts generally prefer that both parents remain involved in the child’s life. Therefore, although the child may live mot of the time with one parent, the other parent is almost always granted parenting time and shared legal custody.

A New Jersey family law attorney from Aretsky Law Group, P.C., can help if…

  • you need help crafting or modifying a child custody or parenting plan;
  • you want to prevent changes to a current child custody or parenting plan;
  • you want to relocate with your child to another state;
  • you want to prevent your ex-spouse from moving out of NJ with your child;
  • you want to ensure that your child’s special educational needs are addressed now and in the future;
  • you want to ensure that your child’s special medical needs are addressed now and in the future;
  • you are dealing with any other child custody or parenting plan issue.

Call Aretsky Law Group, P.C., at 800-537-4154 to schedule an initial consultation. We are available 24/7.

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