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Articles Posted in Child Custody And Visitation

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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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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 →

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