Child Custody and Parenting Time
One of the most complicated and emotional aspects of any divorce settlement is determining the custody of the children. It is never easy when a couple decides that they no longer wish to stay married, and it is hardest on the children who may not understand why this is happening and in certain instances blame themselves for the divorce.
It is important that the parents discuss a plan in which the mother and the father can spend adequate time with their children. The parent who winds up spending most of the time with the child will most likely have more say over a child’s upbringing when it comes to decisions pertaining to medical care, education, and religion. However, the family can put together a parenting plan that outlines the type of custody the parents will agree to follow and other major decisions.
When working through a divorce or trying to put together a fair and just parenting plan, it is wise to hire a lawyer experienced in child custody matters who knows the system and will ensure that a parent’s interest is represented during the proceeding.
What are the Types of Custody Arrangements?
When determining child custody in New Jersey, there are two main aspects of custody that determine a parent’s responsibility. They are physical and legal custody. The former pertains to the actual physical location where the child will be using as his or her primary residence. This is the house where the child will live and will be used to determine where they go to school and other local activities. Legal custody deals with who will be making the life decisions on behalf of the child.
In New Jersey, when a couple gets divorced, there are three options for them to deal with custody for their children. Those three options are as follows:
- Sole custody: Under this plan, the parent serves as the residential custodial parent. That means that person will make all the major decisions about the child such as health care, education, and general welfare. They are also responsible for the day-to-day decisions as well. Under this arrangement, the parent need not inform the non-custodial parent about the decisions that are being made. This category is reserved for a parent who has been deemed to be negligent or absent or there has been a history of abuse.
- Joint legal custody: This is the most common custody arrangement, as it allows for both parents to share the important decisions that will impact their children. What normally happens under this arrangement is that one parent serves as the primary residential custodian for the child, while the other serves as the alternate. Unlike sole custody, in joint custody both parents are expected to make joint decisions on major aspects of the child’s welfare such as health care, education, and general upbringing. The primary custodial parent is still responsible for day-to-day decisions; however, unlike sole custody, they are expected to notify the non-custodial parent when appropriate. All decisions must be in the child’s best interest.
- Shared legal and physical custody: This is an option that most parents prefer because it splits a child’s time between both parents equally. Examples of this arrangement are if the child alternates weeks between parents or if there is an equal division of the days.
These are arrangements that couples can establish as they are working through their divorce. Ultimately, their decision should be dictated by what is in the best interest of the child and nothing personal toward their ex-spouse.
How Do I Put Together a Parenting Plan with My Ex-Spouse?
When a couple decides to end their marriage for good, there are several logistical items that need to be addressed. Primarily, they must divide up their major assets. Determining the custody of the children is also a major decision for which the two must come to terms. The best solution to handle of those decisions is through a parenting plan.
When developing a parenting plan, both spouses should work with their own individual child custody lawyer who will represent their interests in negotiating the plan. This plan will help the couple calculate the parenting time each one will have with the children. These plans put a focus on the quality of the parenting time and not just the quantity. They offer a flexible calendar that gives the child a roadmap for how they will be interacting with their parents going forward. It gives them structure, which is one thing they will desperately need at this stage.
For the sake of the child, the parents should be willing to be flexible to meet the needs and desires of the children. To develop these plans, the parents have two options. They are as follows:
- Mutual agreement: If the couple has a good working relationship, they can come to an amicable arrangement. This allows the parents to decide on the specifics of the plan such as dates, times, holidays, and weekends. Once the plan is drawn up, they can bring it to the court for approval. In most instances, the judge agrees to it, especially if both parents signed off on it.
- Court decision: In circumstances in which the parents do not get along and cannot reach an agreement on a parenting plan, it is up to the court to put one together. The drawback for this option is neither parent will get final say in what that plan looks like. The court will generate a new plan, and the parents will have to abide by it.
It is always best for the two parents to work together no matter how difficult it could be, as this is the only option that grants them control over their parenting plan. A child custody lawyer can help in negotiations, as the lawyer can be removed from the emotional aspects of the situation and negotiate from a place of reason.
Can I Modify My Parenting Plan after a Judge Approves It?
It is possible to modify an existing parenting plan, particularly if there have been major changes to someone’s life such as a shift in a person’s financials. In New Jersey, the courts typically re-evaluate a parenting plan to determine whether it continues to make sense under the circumstances.
Other changes to the plan can occur when the child tuns 18, as they no longer fall under the existing child care plan. In addition, if a spouse re-marries, that will bring an end to child support unless there are certain extenuating circumstances.
For those who do wish to make a change to their parenting plan, they can work with their lawyer who will help them through the legal process of making the requested changes. A person may wish to attempt to modify the plan for a variety of reasons, including a job change, a spouse moving or getting remarried, or the child wishing to change where they are living.
What Happens if There are Complications?
Unfortunately, not every situation has a simple solution. There could also be complications that arise through the actions of a parent. There can be remedies for those, or there are certain situations that will require the intervention of the court. These situations include the following:
- Children with disabilities: When a child has a disability, the decisions about that child’s education and health care becomes even more important. Children with special needs have difficulty dealing with change, so additional thought must be administered when addressing these situations. Both parents must consider the long-term financial costs that it will take to continue to support their child.
- Relocating: If the parent who has physical custody of the child wishes to move out of state, they must first seek consent from the other parent or from the court before making the move. There is no standard for when a court will permit the move. It will primarily depend on the type of custody agreement is in place between the parents.
- Parental alienation: If one of the parents is failing to hold up to their agreed responsibilities or if they are interfering in the custodial parent’s decisions pertaining to the child, that person can petition the court to intercede. The court could issue a warning or implement restrictions on that parent moving forward.
Mount Laurel Child Custody Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Work with You to Get You the Parenting Time You Deserve
Developing a proper parenting plan when determining child custody in New Jersey can be an emotional and complicated task. You need a qualified lawyer on your side who will represent your interests and work with your ex-spouse to develop the best plan that fits your individual desires. The Mount Laurel child custody lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman will lookout for the best interest of your child while ensuring that you get the plan you both deserve. Call us at 856-751-2345 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Burlington County and surrounding areas.