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Child Custody and Parenting Time

Whether mom and dad are married or not, child custody and parenting time are primary issues of concern.  In some cases, parents may actually delay ending their relationship for what they perceive as the sake of the children.  There are different schools of opinion regarding the concept of staying together for the kids.  Nevertheless, the dynamics of every family are distinctive.  What may work for one will not necessarily be feasible for another.

Our New Jersey Attorneys of the Law Offices of DiFrancia & DeDona P.C. understands the sensitive nature of determining child custody and parenting time.  Something as casual as a spur of the moment visit to the park may now require adhering to a schedule.  Additionally, divorced or unmarried parents often feel they miss out on important milestones in their children’s lives.

In a best-case scenario, parents who decide to split will compromise to ensure their kids are able to thrive from what appears to be a bad situation.  However, this is not always possible.  Some marital and other relationship breaks come with a history.  Resentment, jealousy, and even fear all add to an adversarial climate.
Like many states, New Jersey law rests primarily on the best interests of the child standard.  Notwithstanding, the court also considers other factors when making decisions about child custody and parenting time.   

Child Custody in New Jersey

The laws regarding child custody in New Jersey start at NJSA 9:2-1, et seq.  Parents have equal rights when it comes to interacting with their children.  In fact, family law courts encourage mothers and fathers to foster frequent and continuous contact with both.  The end goal is for the parents to be involved in child-rearing and associated responsibilities.

NJSA 9:2-4 emphasizes that when it comes to custody of a child, the rights of both parents are considered.  Furthermore, the statute outlines the different types of child custody arrangements in New Jersey.  They are as follows:

  • Joint custody: Custody is awarded to both parents.  This may be comprised of legal custody or physical custody and includes
    – Provisions for living accommodations. Will the child reside solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent?  The decision will be based on the needs of the parents and the child; 
     – Provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare;
  • Sole custody:  One parent may be awarded custody, with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent; or
  • Other custody arrangements:  The court may determine that other custody arrangements are the most suitable for the best interests of the child.
    When appropriate, divorcing parents may seek an interim custody order. This is known as Pendente Lite motion and may ask for other types of relief as well.
    Considerations in Awarding Custody
    It does not matter if you live in New Jersey or some other part of New Jersey.  The New Jersey courts consider the best interests of children to be a primary consideration.  Notwithstanding, here are some other concerns that are addressed in awarding custody:]
  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child; 
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody;
  • Any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse; 
  • Interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings; 
  • History of domestic violence, if any. The court will consider the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent; 
  • The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
  • The needs of the child; 
  • The stability of the home environment offered; the quality and continuity of the child’s education; 
  • The fitness of the parents; 
  • The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes; 
  • The extent and quality of the time spent with the child before or after the separation; 
  • The parents’ employment responsibilities; 
  • The age and number of the children. 

New Jersey law stresses the role of both parents in their children’s lives.  Accordingly, a parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parents’ conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child.

Final Determination of Child Custody

In some circumstances, the court may find it necessary to separately represent the child’s best interests.  Consequently, a judge may appoint a guardian ad litem or an attorney or both to represent the minor child’s interests.  Additionally, any counsel fees due to the guardian ad litem and the attorney will be assessed to the parties to the litigation.

Child custody is taken very seriously in New Jersey.  Provided they are in the best interests of the child, the court will approve custody arrangements that the parents have worked out between themselves.

In cases where the parents have been unable to come to a custody agreement, the court will require each parent to submit a custody plan.  The court will consider both proposals in making a decision regarding child custody.

When custody arrangements have not been agreed upon by both parents, the court will address the custody decision on the record.  More specifically, the factors which justify the custody arrangement will be detailed.

Parenting Time

In case you are uncertain, parenting time was previously referred to as visitation.  For the most part, parenting time relates to the time that the noncustodial parent spends with the children.  The term visitation seems to suggest that parents are merely visiting, rather than parenting.

Ideally, parenting time schedules are agreed upon by both parents.  Once again, the best interests of the children are paramount.  The objective is to ensure that the children are afforded a relationship with both mother and father.

 For most, parenting time schedules are unique and are designed to accommodate the availability of all parties.  Many are broken down as far as days of the week and hours.  Additionally, holidays and vacation allotments are also outlined.

Our New Jersey Attorneys understands the importance of creating a parenting time schedule.  He will assist you in working out a timetable that allows for consistent parenting time. Nevertheless, if a mother and father cannot agree to a parenting time schedule, the court will order one.  

Contact Us

Communication is essential for couples who have kids together.  Even though your relationship no longer works, you want the best for your children.  Contact the Law Offices of DiFrancia & DeDona to see how we can assist you with your child custody and parenting time issues.

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