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Articles Posted in Child Custody And Visitation

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Many people in the United States have general ideas of what is involved in divorce proceedings, even when they personally have not been involved in such cases themselves. Television shows and films regularly feature divorce cases and marriage dissolution proceedings as part of their productions. With that said, a most Americans likely are unfamiliar with a guardian ad litem and what such a person does in a divorce case.

There are three primary points of consideration when it comes to having a basic understanding of the functions of a guardian ad litem in a divorce case:

  • Definition of guardian ad litem
  • Types of domestic court or family court cases in which a guardian ad litem is appointed
  • Guardian ad litem and child custody and parenting time issues

Definition of a Guardian Ad Litem

The training and functions of individuals appointed by courts to serve as a guardian ad litem are based on the provisions of the laws of a particular state. There can be some fairly significant differences in the laws from one state to another.

With that said, the basic definition used across the country is a person appointed by a court to watch over or protect an individual during a judicial proceeding. At first blush, this may sound like the duties of an attorney representing a party to a case. In fact, in many jurisdictions, a guardian ad litem has a law degree and additional specialized training. Continue Reading →

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Many people are familiar with the most basic types of custody arrangements in divorce, separation, and paternity cases. They likely have some basic concept of joint custody, sole custody, and shared custody. What they probably are unfamiliar with is a fairly new custodial concept known as bird’s nest custody. With that in mind, there are some basic facts and factors important to understand about bird’s nest custody:

  • Basic definition of bird’s nest custody
  • Bird’s nest custody and the best interests of a child
  • Enhanced stability for a child
  • Challenges if a parent has a new relationship

Basic Definition of Bird’s Nest Custody

Bird’s nest custody is an arrangement in which the child or children always reside in the same residence during and after a divorce of legal separation. Each parent takes turns staying in that residence with the minor child, a process oftentimes referred to as “bird nesting.” Bird’s nest custody differs from more traditional schemes where the child shuttles back and forth between the two residences maintained by the parents. Continue Reading →

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Parenting time is the legal term of art applied to the time noncustodial parents spend with children in divorce, legal separation, and paternity actions. The phrase “parenting time” has been broadly adopted in the past generation as a replacement to “visitation,” the long-used term used to identify the time spent between noncustodial parents and children. Generally, parenting time should be regular and generous. The objective is to ensure that noncustodial parents and children develop meaningful relationships. Understanding this basic background, situations to arise when supervised parenting time or visitation becomes necessary.

A number of points warrant discussion when considering supervised parenting time. These include:

  • Overview of parenting time supervision
  • Situations that give rise to need for parenting time supervision
  • Termination of supervised parenting time
  • Suspension of parenting time

Overview of Parenting Time Supervision

When an issue arises as to whether parenting time should be supervised, a court applies a judicial standard that focuses on what is in the best interests of a child. Supervised parenting time is instituted when protecting and preserving the best interests of a child necessitates this step, a move that is considered drastic in the grand scheme of things. Continue Reading →

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Time and again in marriage dissolution proceedings and post-divorce cases, the most contentious matters center on child custody. A pervasive problem during and after divorce proceedings is a noncustodial parent interfering with a standing child custody order of the court. With this in mind, there are some more commonplace issues that arise in regard to interference with child custody. In each of the 50 states, there are some effective remedies in place to address interference with child custody.

Overview of Child Custody

The laws in the 50 states provide for two categories of child custody. These are legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is defined as the authority of a parent to make major life decisions on behalf of a minor child. Legal custody can be exercised by one parent or shared by both, depending on the agreement of the parties or order of the court. Matters that encompass major life decisions include those related to education, religion, and healthcare.

In very basic terms, physical custody involves with which parent a child resides during and after divorce proceeds. Physical custody is also known as residential custody in some jurisdictions. Continue Reading →

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A parenting time order establishes when a noncustodial parent will be with the child or children born in a partnership (or an order handed down in a paternity case). Parenting time historically had been known as visitation. The term has changed in most jurisdictions to reflect the fact that a noncustodial parent and a minor child should not be reduced to the position of being visitors in each other’s lives. Circumstances may arise when a desire arises to change a parenting time order. There are some facts and factors to bear in mind when it comes to the process to alter or amend a parenting time order:

  • Seek agreement to change parenting time order
  • Judicial standard when seeking to change parenting time
  • Suspend parenting time due to an emergency
  • Motion to alter or amend parenting time order

Seek Agreement to Change Parenting Time Order

There is a legitimate preference for divorced parents to work together when it comes to matters associated with their children. If a situation arises in which a change of parenting time is considered for one reason or another, in an ideal state the parents should try to work out an agreement between them regarding a change of a parenting time order. Continue Reading →

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Divorce or separation creates a new family dynamic that every member of the family has to adjust to.  This new situation can be especially difficult for children.  Thankfully, successful co-parenting can help children adjust to their new situation.  Here are five tips to help you successfully co-parent.

  1. Focus on what you can agree on and the rest will take care of itself over time

It may sound difficult, but it is possible to find something to agree on with your ex when it comes to your children.  It does not matter how basic the issue or fact is that you can agree on; it’s just important to find something you agree on and use that as a starting point for conversations about your child.  If you can agree on one thing, that can lead to fruitful discussions about other topics.  For example, most parents can agree that it’s important for their child to be healthy. If you’re having a hard time thinking of a topic you can agree on with your ex, think of a topic or issue that you know your ex thinks is important.  If you can concede his/her point or you don’t feel strongly one way or another about an issue, use that topic or issue as a conversation starter.  Once you can build some common ground by agreeing on an issue, you can, over time, work up to discussing more difficult topics and work on resolutions.

  1. Accept that you can’t control everything when you co-parent

You may hate the amount of screen time your child has when he is at your ex’s house.  Unless screen time becomes extremely detrimental to your child’s health, education, or welfare, the amount of screen time your child has is probably not an issue worth fighting over.  You will have to accept that your ex will likely run his/her household differently than you will and unless a child’s safety is at issue, you have no say in what happens at your ex’s house.  What you can control, however, is what happens at your house and how you react to different situations.  You can gain a great deal of peace if you learn to accept what you can and can’t control.  If you worry and fret and try to argue with someone over what you can’t control, you will drive yourself crazy and create unnecessary conflict.  Continue Reading →

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The normal routines of daily life continue to be upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty exists about how long businesses and schools will remain closed. For divorced parents, dealing with child visitation and the coronavirus can create increased anxiety and conflict. As the situation and resulting government orders may change rapidly, the best co-parenting will result from cooperation and flexibility.

Most stay-at-home orders across the country do not take priority over court-ordered visitation provisions. The stay-at-home order issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy specifically provides an exception allowing travel for family visits. Other states have taken a similar approach. Orders enacted in California and Illinois included language that specifically allow travel for custody exchanges between parents. Massachusetts officials have also stated that the virus does not provide a legal basis to disobey visitation orders.

The general guideline in virtually every state is that, at a minimum, court-ordered visitation schedules should continue to be followed unless there is some specific and provable reason to restrict contact such as either a parent or child contracting the disease. Denying visitation based on a generalized fear that a child may be exposed to the virus is insufficient. Continue Reading →

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Divorced Parents may want nothing to do with each other following a difficult divorce, but when minor children are involved, the necessity of exchanging children to comply with court-ordered custody and visitation plans usually requires some degree of interaction. Ideally, contact between ex-spouses during an exchange should extend just long enough to safely accomplish delivery of the children. However, if grudges are held or conflict exists regarding parenting styles or issues, the event of exchanging the children carries the potential for emotionally harmful and even violent behavior.

Spouses may fall out of love with each other, but children will still love each parent and hope to have a strong bond with each parent. Children who witness divorced parents arguing or threatening each other generally experience stress and often blame themselves for parental problems. Such stress can lead to depression, poor school performance, negative social interaction and even physical health problems.

When children are present, communication between hostile ex-spouses should be kept to a minimum. Issues involving child support or parenting differences should be addressed by e-mail, phone calls or by communication via attorneys. Continued conflict experienced during custody exchanges can make a child fearful and resistant to comply with the visitation schedule simply to avoid the negative feelings which routinely accompany the exchange.  Continue Reading →

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At the conclusion of a divorce involving children, a court usually enters a Parenting Plan or visitation schedule outlining the specific times when each parent will have physical custody of a child. Cooperative parents can generally make informal changes to the plan when circumstances dictate to accommodate such things as vacations, involvement in school events or parental work schedules. Flexibility serves the needs of both parent and child and minimizes stress.

Unfortunately, not all divorces result in cooperative parenting, and a parent may withhold a child from the other parent in violation of the court ordered parenting plan. When a parent interferes with the other parent’s right to custody, the offending parent may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties.

Custodial interference, in the broadest sense, occurs when one parent actively disrupts the other parent’s scheduled time with their child.  Interference may be as relatively minor as preventing phone contact between a child and parent, interfering with the other parent’s participation in school activities or returning a child an hour late from visitation. Continue Reading →

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Parenting Plans, entered as part of the final orders in a divorce, layout the custody and visitation arrangements between parents and children. The plan acts as a co-parenting blueprint by outlining the rights and responsibilities each parent has toward a child. Regardless of how custody is shared, one person will usually be designated as the primary or custodial parent. The child will be required to reside with that parent except for specific times when the child will live with the non-custodial parent.

Courts seek to encourage frequent and regular interaction between children and both parents unless a reason, such as a history of domestic violence, exists to limit contact. Ideally, the parents should mutually work to craft the plan rather than delegate the task to the court. Creativity in structuring the custody and visitation details can provide positive results for both children and parents.

The traditional schedule for school-age children has the child living with the primary parent most of the time with the child residing at the other parent’s home every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening. Holidays are rotated each year. Winter and spring breaks from school may be split or alternated. The child may live with the non-custodial parent for a couple of weeks to half of the summer vacation. This time-worn schedule creates the weekend parent, a status often loathed by the non-custodial parent. However, a few changes can make a big difference. Continue Reading →

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