Articles Posted in Child Custody And Visitation

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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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Family law in New Jersey certainly revolves around the individual facts of each case. But what some individuals take for granted is how crucial a firm understanding of basic procedural rules of court can be to someone’s custody dispute. Of course, judges are not exempt from this requirement. But one recent case required an examination of whether a judge had properly followed child custody laws in NJ to ensure the correct decision had been reached.

In JG v. JH, the two parents in question were not married when their son, John, was born in 2012. At first, things were going well. In 2014, the court ordered the parents to share joint legal custody of their son, with the mother (Jane) having primary residential custody, and the dad (Joseph) having significant parenting time. The next year, the parents attempted to reconcile and so the consent order was vacated. It was not meant to be, and eventually, the parents grew apart, Jane entered a new relationship and became pregnant with another man, now her fiancé. Joseph claims he is a known drug user and is a convicted felon who has multiple prison sentences. As a result, Joseph filed an order to show cause under the original order (since vacated) asking for sole custody of John.

The court denied the order to show cause, stating that there was a failure by Joseph to show ‘actual imminent threat of harm’ to the child,’ and the court could not grant such emergency relief based on speculation. It did, however, grant temporary sole physical custody of the child to Joseph, pending a resolution on the application, because the court felt that there was the potential for violence in the mother’s home, which could negatively impact the child. Jane’s parenting time was also to be supervised by her mother. In turn, Jane responded with her own order to show cause, claiming that the child would suffer by his sudden separation from her. This was denied, with the judge again claiming there was no evidence for imminent harm supplied.  Continue reading

When it comes to ending your marriage, divorce ranks right up there with getting your wisdom teeth pulled out. As author Mary Kay Blakely once said, “Divorce is the psychological equivalent of a triple coronary bypass.”

If children are involved, you may be in store for a lengthy adjustment period. Divorce and children are difficult to navigate. Learning to keep the peace would do wonders for both sides. Of course, that is easier said than done. Nonetheless, here are 10 tips for recently divorced couples who have children together:

1) Come up with a schedule, and stick to it

Remember, children thrive on routine and consistency. Your custody arrangement should take into account your children’s ages, the activities they’re involved in, and your work and personal schedule. Of course, there are times when life gets in the way, and you need to change things up a bit, which leads to the second tip.

2) When comes to divorce and children learn to say “yes!”

Does your ex-spouse need to tweak the schedule occasionally? Do they want to take the kids to see their parents during what is supposed to be your Christmas? If the other household’s requests are not unreasonable, then accommodating them could go a long way toward building up goodwill between the two families. In a perfect world, your ex will be just as accommodating and reasonable when you need some help. Whether that happens when the time comes is not the point, which is to create a happier, healthier environment for your children. Continue reading

It is becoming frequently common for couples to have children outside the marital relationship, for a multitude of reasons. Part of it has to do with delaying marriage – part of it has to do with the relaxing of stricter moral or religious codes regarding sex prior to marriage. Regardless, when children are born outside the marriage, both parents still have a duty to care and support their children. However, there are certain New Jersey custody laws for unmarried parents that these individuals should be aware of in order to preserve their parental rights.

Establishing Parental Rights

The mother is always presumed to be the mother of the child, whether married or not. But for fathers, the New Jersey custody laws for unmarried parents include a requirement to establish paternity before any orders can be issued concerning custody, visitation or support. There is a multitude of ways unmarried parents can establish paternity. If the parties never marry, then the father will need to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. A certificate of parentage can establish paternity and can be executed at the hospital during the child’s birth. The parents will need to meet with a birth certificate coordinator who will explain the provisions and significance of the form. Then, they will need to present valid identification and fill out the certificate. Their signatures must then be witnessed by the coordinator. Of course, if the parents do not fill out the form at the hospital, it can be completed later at either a local registrar’s office or county welfare agency.

He can also file a lawsuit to establish paternity, where a court will determine that he is the father. The couple can marry shortly after the child is born and sign a legitimization form, or the father can agree to his name put on the birth certificate and agrees to support the child. The father can also welcome the child into his home and openly hold out the child as his own. However, it is also best to get a court order or acknowledgment of paternity on file to get rid of any question as to the paternity of the child.  Continue reading

It is an unfortunate fact of life that when relationships go sour, some parents cannot set aside their own pain. Instead, they prevent the children they have with the other parent from developing a meaningful relationship with the other parent. Sometimes, parents will not have access to their child for years due to the actions of the other parent. In these cases, reunification therapy is a good option to help ease the child into a meaningful relationship with their mom or dad.

The goal is to reintroduce the parent and child so that they can continue to build a relationship, and also to prevent any further cleaving of the bond. If the court orders reunification therapy in a family law case, then a therapist will be appointed to help counsel each party. Ultimately, successful reunification therapy means that the court can order visitation.

Children who have been separated from their parents are more likely to face emotional distress or difficulty in adjusting. They often exhibit self-hatred, low self-esteem, aggression, and lack remorse or guilt. Therefore, reunification therapy aims to ensure the child has the best possible chance to work through the issues they might feel with an absentee parent. Continue reading

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) carries a heavy burden in presenting a case as to whether or not a parent is engaged in abuse or neglect of a child. The case of the NJDCPP v. N.B., the mother of a minor child, was recently appealed after a trial court founds that the mother had abused or neglected her twelve-year-old son. There were various issues as to the weight and credibility of the evidence presented, which the appellate court grappled with before ultimately overruling the trial court.

Facts

It all started when the biological father of D.B., who had been living with the mother at the time, filed a complaint about the child’s mother. The mother and her boyfriend had gotten into an argument, where the mother had said: “she was going to harm herself one of these days.” The law enforcement officers reported that D.B. had phoned an aunt after his mother left him alone in their shared hotel room and he was scared. The aunt came to retrieve the child and let him stay at her home for a time until the father picked him up. The police reached out to the mother to conduct a welfare check after hearing this report. N.B. agreed that there had been an argument, and she went for a drive to cool down for a few hours. She left her son at the hotel because he did not want to go for a drive. She confirmed that when she said she was going to hurt herself, it was simply a figure of speech and she did not really mean it.

In subsequent interviews, D.B. reported several other comments his mother made within the same vein, such as the mother telling her boyfriend, “since we are all here, why don’t you drive off the bridge and kill us all.” He also told the DCPP that the fights between his mom and boyfriend had been physical in the past, and he was fearful on that day that his mother would ‘go off on him’ when she got back to the hotel room. The mother denied this, as well as denied any physical altercations between herself and her boyfriend, asserting that their arguments were only ever verbal. Despite of this, the DCPP removed D.B. from his mother’s custody and placed D.B. in possession of his father.  Continue reading

Divorce is considered the third-worst event a child can experience. Parents need to focus on minimizing the pain of the divorce to child. What follows are some tips parents can use to make the process less painful for everyone involved.

1) Keep it civil.

Parents are among the most significant people in a child’s life, and the last thing they want to see is parents who argue every time they are together or one parent who badmouths the other when she or he isn’t around. This sort of behavior is so harmful to children that some people even label it as abusive. No matter a parent’s feelings toward an ex-partner, all interactions that occur in the presence of a child should be as polite and respectful as possible.

2) Present a united front.

Children need a certain amount of structure and consistency, so all parenting decisions should be joint decisions. Rules should not differ much, if any, between households, and parents should resolve their differences of opinion in private and approach children only after they reach a consensus. Parents must work together to compromise and act consistently for the sake of their children’s well-being. Continue reading

Divorce is never simple or easy. Maybe you wrestled with the decision for years before finally deciding to proceed with a divorce. Perhaps your former spouse made the decision for you. Maybe you and your partner chose to end things on amicable terms. No matter how your divorce came to be, it’s important that you take the time to work through your emotions and feelings regarding the separation. Then you’ll be able to help your children cope with their own emotions, as well.

Whether your children are infants or teenagers, they’re going to experience a variety of emotions regarding the separation. Their entire life will change when you get divorced, so it’s important that you help them deal with it as effectively as possible. No matter how old your children are, there are several steps you can take to help them face these new changes.

First off, make sure you avoid talking negatively about your former spouse. While it can be easy to point fingers and place blame during a divorce, try to remember that to your children, this is their beloved parent. Even if your partner has been terrible to you, try to avoid saying anything that would stress out your children or make them feel like they’re being placed in the middle of your divorce. If you can’t say anything positive about your former partner, simply avoid saying anything at all to your children. Continue reading

Unfortunately, in matters of family law, there are circumstances in which a parent’s rights to their children are under investigation, and parental rights can be terminated. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) is the agency charged with ensuring the protection of children, and are typically the party requesting involuntary termination of a parental rights. Recently, they were involved in an appellate case, DCP&P v. PD and AW, which covered a breadth of issues, including international treaties and constitutional due process.

Background

In 2006, AW, the mother, gave birth to a child called SD. Several days later, DCP&P got word that there were adults abusing alcohol and drugs in the same apartment the children were living. SD tested positive for cocaine. As a result, SD was removed from AW’s custody on an emergency basis, and the child was put in a resource home. The DCP&P then filed a complaint with the court requesting care, custody and supervision of SD. The court approved their request, and AW agreed that she was responsible for neglect of the child. SD was then placed in the care of KA and RA, maternal relatives. PD was proven to be SD’s father, after a paternity test. He was offered supervised visitation, which eventually had to be held at the offices of the DCP&P given the fractious relationship between the resource parents and the biological parents. Eventually, SD was returned to AW’s care, with the DCP&P remaining involved. The court entered an order preventing PD from having any access to the child in March of 2007 until he had participated in various evaluations and programs to get access to SW reinstated. He did participate, until he was charged with a probation violation, and stopped attending the programs. In 2008, the court determined that AW and PD were to share legal custody of the child, with AW having physical custody. PD received charges for aggravated assault at some point, and was sentenced to three years in prison. In December 2008, PD was deported back to Cape Verde, Africa.

In 2012, DCP&P received another report of violence between AW and a man called JG. AW was charged with neglect and SD was placed in the care of the DCP&P, at which point PD was notified. SD was eventually placed once again with KA and RA, and PD was notified of the child’s placement. DCP&P considered placing the child with PD, but there was difficulty in determining whether his home would be suitable, given his international location. An international home study was carried out in November 2013, and the court found it inadequate, particularly in light of concerns regarding PD’s criminal history. There was no recommendation for SD to be placed with PD. In January 2014, the court approved of the DCP&P’s plan to terminate PD and AW’s parental rights. In December 2014, AW surrendered her parental rights to KA and RA. The court held trial on the DCP&P’s complaint concerning PD’s parental rights in June 2015. PD was still in Africa, so did not participate in trial on day one, but participated by phone and gave sworn testimony on day 2. He opposed his parental rights being terminated, and asked the court for SD to live with him.   Continue reading

Settling on a custody and visitation schedule can be the most difficult part of a divorce. Your kids are the most important part of your life, and it’s natural to want to fight for as much time with them as possible. However, when you consider issues of custody, you have to keep your children’s best interest as your top priority.

Here are five tips for making a co-parenting arrangement work for the kids in your life.

Give kids a voice.

Unless your children are very young, they will have preferences about where they want to spend their time. While custody arrangements are not decided by children, it’s important to make them feel that their opinions are valued.Talk to your kids about splitting time between Mom’s house and Dad’s. Are there particular nights of the week that your child has sports or another activity? Are you being sure to take this into account when you plan the schedule? Divorce can shake a child’s life to the core. It’s important to keep as much consistency in their lives as possible. They shouldn’t be forced to give up activities because of the divorce. When a family is going through turmoil, children often feel like they have no control. Giving them a voice will help them cope. However, do not sign-up your child for activities with the intent interfere with your ex-spouse’s parenting time. Continue reading

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Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney.

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