Category: Parenting Time
Common Misconceptions related to Joint Custody and Child Support In New Jersey
Read on to learn a few common misconceptions divorcing spouses encounter that affect them moving forward.
Divorce is a complicated matter. Because it is a legal union in addition to a relationship based on love, its separation requires clarity and precision on all levels. One thing that can get in the way of this clarity is the divorcing spouse’s understanding of what common procedures and terms related to the divorce mean. In order to limit misunderstanding that may cause problems down the road, it is imperative that both attorneys and judges ensure that the litigants understand the lay meaning of legal processes and outcomes.
Physical, Legal, and Joint Custody
Surprisingly, custody is one area for which many divorcing couples in New Jersey are underinformed or misinformed. When, in an introductory consultation, a spouse says, “we want joint custody,” they often don’t recognize that joint custody takes many forms.
First of all, there are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines with whom the child will live, and this can take many shapes. Legal custody determines who will have a legal say in decisions regarding the child’s educational, medical, and general wellbeing.
Types of Physical Custody
When a person with a child is considering divorce, they often don’t have the necessary information to make informed considerations about how best to move forward. There are three types of physical custody, and two of them are ‘joint.’ Joint custody simply means that both parents spend time with the child based on the parenting time agreements they determine together, or that is court-established where they are not able to come to an agreement. While many who want ‘joint’ custody are thinking that they want the child to live with them an equal amount as they live with their spouse, this is rarely awarded by a court. Why? A 50/50 split is, in most cases, destabilizing for a child, as the child has to uproot and move back and forth more than is in their best interest.
The New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part’s first priority is the best interest of the child, so unless the parents live very close to one another, have an amicable relationship, and have similar parenting philosophies – or unless the divorcing couple will engage in nesting, by which the children live in the same home and the parents move back and forth between the family home and their secondary space, the courts will likely not award complete joint custody.
Primary Residential Custodian and Parent of Alternate Residence
The more likely arrangement is that one parent will be awarded primary residential custodian and the other parent of alternate residence. In this joint custodial agreement, the child lives with and spends the majority of time with one parent, and the other parent has ample visitation rights, as determined by their parenting time agreement schedules. The third physical custody agreement is sole custody, in which one parent has exclusive residential rights, and the other parent has limited and perhaps supervised visitation.
Child Support Expenses
Another common confusion regarding legal jargon is the meaning of child support. Believe it or not, many divorced parents request bank statements and other accounting to prove that the child support they have paid has gone specifically and exclusively to the support of the child. When they demand this type of accounting, they are generally thinking that their payments must be limited to direct child spendings, such as school supplies and extracurricular lessons. However, child support costs are far broader, and a parent receiving child support payments could be using that financial support to cover household expenses such as rent and utilities, car and gas payments, groceries, and other costs that are split between the householders, but of which the child is one. As such, a parent paying child support cannot argue that the other parent is using their specially allocated funds towards their own means. Supporting a child takes many financial forms, and the receiving parent is within their legal rights to use those child support funds in those ways. Of course, if a parent receiving child support is found to be using those funds to cover personal expenses or for personal matters, the ex-spouse could take that matter up with the courts.
Contact Our Sea Girt NJ Joint Custody and Child Support Attorneys Today
At Peter J. Bronzino Law Firm, our experienced team of divorce attorneys supports clients in towns across Ocean and Monmouth County, including Jackson, Sea Girt, Point Pleasant, Asbury Park, Wall, and the surrounding communities in all divorce and custody needs.
To schedule a consultation with a member of our team today regarding your divorce and custody arrangement, please contact us online, or through either our Brick office or our Sea Girt office at (732) 812-3102.
When Is It Appropriate to Use Child Testimony in Divorce and Custody Proceedings?
The process of getting a divorce and dealing with child custody is precarious at best. You want your attorney to help you obtain the best outcome for you and your changing family situation and if your divorce lawyer wants to strengthen his or her case, it is likely that he or she will introduce witnesses to testify on their client’s behalf. However, before an attorney will consider the testimony of such witnesses as part of their child custody case, they must determine if the potential witness is credible or not. A credible witness is competent to give evidence because he or she has knowledge and experience with the issues involved. For example, a credible witness can be someone who has knowledge in a particular field, such as an expert in children’s psychology. Yet not all witnesses must be experts in a particular field to be considered credible. Oftentimes, family members are called to testify in matrimonial cases, specifically children if they are of a suitable age.
What are the legal considerations when considering using child testimony?
Generally, a child may testify as to his custodial preference. A child’s testimony is usually procured on this subject in one of two ways. First, the child may be questioned by the judge in chambers, with only the attorneys and the court reporter present. This is sometimes called an in-camera interview. The attorneys are generally not permitted to share a child’s testimony from that interview with the parents. Alternatively, a child may testify in open court as a witness. No matter what form the testimony takes, the child must be competent for any testimony to be considered.
The courts have wide discretion in determining the competency of a witness. Judges experienced with young children will often spend a significant amount of time discussing with a child the concept of the truth and whether the child can differentiate between a truth and a lie. Judges will also sometimes spend a significant amount of time discussing mundane topics with the child. In addition to setting the child at ease, a certain amount of “small talk” may help the judge to determine whether the child’s vocabulary is sufficient to accurately express himself. In some cases, the attorneys will be permitted to ask the child questions.
What are the practical considerations?
The first practical consideration is whether having your child testify or participate in an in-camera interview will have a negative emotional effect on them. Imagine how anxious you, as an adult, would be testifying at your trial. You may be concerned about ensuring that your testimony is truthful and clear. You might be afraid that your statements will be twisted by the other side and taken out of context by the judge. You may be anxious that you do not forget anything when you are speaking in court.
Your child has all these concerns and then some. He/She may be afraid to appear as if sides are being taken. Concerns about making anyone mad or disappointing either parent is also anxiety-provoking. It is essential that parents demonstrate great care and sensitivity when a child is faced with testifying in this circumstance.
The second practical consideration you should contemplate is the unpredictability of your child’s testimony. Do not assume your child will make the same statements to the judge that he has previously made to you. Often, a child’s testimony will be markedly different than you expect. A child’s statements may be inconsistent for a plethora of reasons. Maybe he is being pressured or enticed with material rewards by the other parent. Perhaps his understanding of the world, including his perception of time, is not the same as yours. You should not rely on your child’s testimony to remain the same over the course of your litigation.
How Do I Decide?
There is no right or wrong answer. Every family is different and what is most important is that you do not place your possible desire to get back at your spouse by taking away the children to get in the way of a true consideration of what is best for them. Once you have consulted with your attorney to determine whether your child’s testimony will be permitted in some form then you must make personal and strategic decisions. Child testimony should ultimately be whether you want your child to freely express his opinion to the Court, regardless of the weight the Court will give the testimony and regardless of whether the testimony will be favorable to you.
Consult a Child Custody Proceedings Attorney in Monmouth and Ocean County Today
At the law office of Peter J. Bronzino in Brick, MJ, we understand how important your children are to you and we are ready to work with you to pursue the best plan for your changing family. We will collaborate with your spouse to peaceably reach a child custody agreement while defending your needs and rights. Please contact us online or at our Brick, NJ office at (732) 812-3102.
How to combat Parental Alienation in a NJ Custody Dispute
The challenge for a family following separation is to transition from an intact family structure to a separated family structure that is now united by the children and by the continuing parental roles and shared bonds of affection with the child.
Sometimes the emotional reactions and psychological functioning of one parent in response to divorce prevent this transition. When this occurs children can be exposed to that parent’s continuing anger and sadness.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation is the outcome of a process of one parent (the alienating parent) influencing a child (alienated or targeted child) to turn against and reject their other parent (alienated or targeted parent) without legitimate justification. The alienating parent can also be a grandparent, a stepparent, and even a non-family member.
Parental alienation can occur even when the relationship between the targeted child and the targeted parent was once a very positive one. It occurs when a child is forced to choose one parent’s side over the other after family separation and during parenting disputes.
What Does Parent Alienation Look Like?
The alienator might divulge unnecessary relational details — for example, instances of affairs — to a child. This can certainly make the child feel alienated themselves, as well as angry at (and feeling personally hurt by) something that was really between adults.
An alienator may prevent a child from seeing or talking to the other parent while saying that the alienated is busy/occupied/uninterested in the child.
An alienator may insist on the child’s personal items all be kept at the alienator’s house, regardless of how much time the kid spends with the other parent.
An alienator might plan tempting activities during the other parent’s custody. For example, “You’re supposed to be at your dad’s this weekend, but I was thinking it’s the perfect weekend to invite your friends to a sleepover here for your birthday this month. What would you like to do?”
Related to the above, an alienator might frequently bend or break custody guidelines, arranged inside or outside of court. On the flip side, an alienator may also refuse to compromise on a custody agreement. For example, if mom’s birthday falls on a day when dad has custody and dad is an alienator, he may rigidly refuse to let the kid go to mom’s birthday dinner when mom asks.
The alienator may ask the child about the alienated parent’s personal life and more. This can then become a subject of gossip. Oh, your dad has a new girlfriend? What’s she like? Wonder how long it will last. He had four girlfriends the year you were in kindergarten and we were still married, you know.
The alienator may become controlling when it comes to the child’s relationship with the other parent. For example, the alienator could try to monitor all phone calls, text messages, or interactions.
The alienator may actively compare the other parent to a new partner. This could take the form of the child hearing that their stepmom loves them more than their mom. A child might even be told that their stepparent will adopt them and give them a new last name
What Are the Consequences of Parental Alienation?
The consequences of parental alienation on children are serious and long-lasting. Some of these consequences include:
- Conflict with Parents
- Sleep problems
- Substance Abuse
- Speech Problems
- Sexual Promiscuity
- Poor Body Image
- Poor Eating Habits
- Eating Disorders
- Weight Loss/Weight Gain
- Disheveled Living Space
- Poor Executive Function (Disorganization)
- Diminished Activity
- Psycho-Somatic Distortions
- Feelings of Isolation
- Increased Use of Technology as an Escape
- Lack of Friends
- Sibling Conflict (Including Violence)
- Heightened Fantasy Life
- Diminished Attention Span
- Social Identity Problem
- Regressive Behaviors
- Conflicts in Peer Relationships
- School Dysfunction
- Memory Loss
What can I do to Combat Parental Alienation?
Create a plan and develop your resources.
Dealing with parental alienation is not easy. It can be exceedingly painful when your children resist your attempts to connect or view you as the “bad” parent, which is often the case. In your hurt, or out of a wish to do what is best for your children, you might wonder if it is better to give up the fight. But this could mean giving up custody, your right to parent your own children, or even see them as much as you would like.
Utilize all available resources.
Develop a plan, with the help of your therapist and attorney, to address and face any allegations that may be made against you. Do you have proof to counterclaims you know to be lies? Track down proof. Keep a record of any incidents or contradictory statements, without engaging or participating in conflict with your co-parent. Arrange to have a friend or trusted family member when you meet your co-parent to pick up or drop off your children. This can be a good idea for your own well-being and safety, but a witness may also be useful in the event of a legal battle.
Do not delay action.
Delay is the number one mistake that gets made and is the number one tactic of the aligned parent and their attorneys. Working with an understanding and knowledgeable attorney who understands that a mere allegation does not make something true is very important. You need someone who can help you defend yourself and your children from the abuse of parental alienation. It may act as grounds to modify a child custody order. There are no set answers, as the process can be extensive and arduous, but you are by no means alone. The sooner you contact a legal representative to assist you, the more expeditious the process will be.
Do You Want To Discuss further? Do not hesitate to contact a Monmouth and Ocean County Custody Attorney
At the Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, we are prepared to help you recover a working relationship with your former spouse by stopping parental alienation in its tracks and creating a safer environment for you and your children. Our top-notch team is well-practiced in all facets of family law from mediations to trials. Contact us today through our online form or call us at (732) 812-3102. Your family’s well-being is of utmost importance.
Healthy Co-parenting During the Pandemic with Sea Girt & Brick Family Attorneys
Learn some tips on how to navigate co-parenting in 2020.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the year 2020 has caused many hardships; it has been a devastatingly unstable, unsafe, and paradigm-shifting year for millions of families worldwide. While the Coronavirus has touched nearly every aspect of our lives, those of us with children have felt the adverse effects of the pandemic, especially forcefully, what with lockdowns, school moved to remote learning for months on end, and regular routines and extracurricular activities canceled across the board. The stress of having children keep safe, engaged, and cared for 24/7 for the better part of the year is amplified even further when you and your spouse are going through a separation or are divorced and juggling custody arrangements and parenting time agreements.
If you are divorced and struggling to uphold your parenting time agreements in the age of Coronavirus, where lockdowns, curfews, restrictions on travel, and sweeping closures are the new normal; or if you and your spouse are in the midst of separation or divorce and are still living together with your children during this difficult time; it is important to have information, community support, and tools to navigate this uncharted era.
There are multitudes of studies noting that children require consistency in their day-to-day interactions and routines to become resilient, well-adjusted individuals. Especially when parents have split or are undergoing a divorce, children need to feel grounded, in touch with something that is not changing. As such, creating a consistent environment during this inconsistent time can be a challenge, but it is a worthy one to face in service of your children’s wellbeing. Consider creating habits that span households, can be implemented by the children and parents regardless of where they are, and harness the safety measures the Coronavirus requires; one example of this is a sanitation routine for coming home from school. Where do shoes and backpack go? Make this consistent in both households. What is the handwashing and surface cleaning procedure? What are the hygiene precautions for entering the car from school? How can the children be included in the roles and responsibilities regarding cleansing routines, now that they are a necessary part of day-to-day life? Talk with your co-parent – and your children – about how you create consistency across households and stick to it.
Work Together for a Common Goal: Your Children
Whether or not you get along with your ex, you are partners in raising your children. Keep exchanges positive and specific. If communication usually breaks down, focus on logistics alone, and leave the back-and-forth to that. If you are still living together, make sure that confrontations and inflamed interactions are not expressed in front of your children – they do not deserve to be in the middle of your personal dispute, and they are particularly vulnerable and impressionable. As much as possible, stay out of each other’s way. When possible, highlight your ex’s positive traits to your child. At the same time, this may be hard to muster if the split emotionally hurts you, you are modeling for your child characteristics that they can look up to, and perhaps you may help your own healing by remembering your ex’s more welcome aspects.
As you and your co-parent navigate the inevitable shifts to court-mandated custody arrangements and parenting time agreements because of lockdowns and travel restrictions associated with Covid-19, work together as a team to ensure that both parents get as close to their fair allotted time with their children as possible. This is as much, if not more, for the child’s sense of consistency and wellbeing as it is for the parent’s sense of justice. Be open to being flexible about how that time spent with children happens in the short term — video calls may have to replace school pick-up and drop-off for the time being, and long weekends may have to be replaced by brief, socially distant ice cream dates outside. Know that this pandemic won’t continue forever, and the steps you take towards continuing to build a healthy bond with your children while also strengthening your relationship with your co-parent by displaying flexibility and collaboration will all pay off in the long run.
Wall Township Divorce Lawyer Helps You and your Co-parent Work Together Through Difficult Times
At Bronzino Law Firm, our experienced family law team supports clients across Point Pleasant, Brick, Wall, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and the greater Ocean and Monmouth County Areas in all matters regarding divorce and parenting time.
Does Refusing Overtime Imply Underemployment when calculating Child Support?
With experience handling child support related issues, at Bronzino Law, we understand that each client is different, and requires a specific plan of action suited to their own individual needs.
Whenever parents of children divorce or dissolve their legal relationship, one of the most important issues to be decided is that of child support. Although determining a child support arrangement in New Jersey can be a complex issue, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines (NJCSG) were developed to dictate how to calculate child support and to provide fairness and uniformity in child support settlements.
When assessing the financial means or assets each parent has available for support purposes, is important to consider is not only the actual earned wages but what the parents’ income capabilities are. If a parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed and earning less than what he or she is capable of earning, the Child Support Guidelines allows the court to impute income to the parent who could or should be earning more.
It’s not always clear what a parent is capable of earning or if a parent is voluntarily underemployed. Some people have seasonal, occasional, variable, a second job, or “sporadic” income like overtime.
At the Bronzino Law Firm, LLC we take great care getting accurate income figures from both you and your spouse, as well as factoring in child custody arrangements in order to accurately determine your child support obligations and rights.
With experience handling a wide variety of child support related issues such as paternity actions, and child support modifications, we understand that each client is different, and requires a specific plan of action suited to their own individual needs.
Contact us online or our Sea Girt or our Brick office at (732) 812-3102 to discuss your unique needs and concerns related to any child support or family law matter in a free and confidential consultation with a member of our legal team today.
What is the Difference Between Underemployment and Unemployment When Calculating Child Support?
Underemployment usually refers to a person that is fact working but in some cases not as much as they’d like to or not to the full extent of their abilities, skills, or education. An individual working part-time instead of full-time may be considered underemployed. It can also refer to a person with very high qualifications working in a lower position with less money.
Unemployment or being without a job can be voluntary or involuntary. When a capable person actively seeking employment cannot find work, at any level, they are considered involuntarily unemployed. Conversely, if an individual refuses employment due to factors such as hours, wages, etc., they are considered voluntarily unemployed.
Can the Court Impute Income Based on Income Available From Overtime Hours If A Parent Does Not Take Advantage of Said Overtime?
As a result of the recent NJ Superior Court case of Ferrer v. Colon, FD-2392-07 (Ch. Div. 2020), the trial court specifically decided that overtime pay is “sporadic income,” which is fluctuating income that may be offered but is not guaranteed to an employee. Bonuses, commissions, and seasonal work are also types of sporadic income. If sporadic income is included in the NJCSG, then it should be averaged over a period of no more than three years. It was also determined that averaging overtime pay is fair because it considers that a party may work multiple overtime hours in one year and not at all in a different year.
In addition, the trial court held that there was no evidence that the party whose income was in question worked all available overtime provided by the employer and, therefore, it was not appropriate to include the total available overtime this person could have potentially worked, in the NJCSG. To calculate child support based on available overtime pay instead of averaging the overtime pay actually earned could serve to punish a party for having employment where overtime pay is available, and being unfair, might require one party to work harder than the other.
What Proof Can I Give to Prove True Hardship Related to My Unemployment or Underemployment?
The most recent causes for unemployment and unemployment are evident in the effect COVID-19 has had on many businesses; producing a catastrophic economic downturn on the local, state, national, and international levels. As money becomes tighter, companies have been cutting on hiring, hours, or simply laying-off current staff.
If a parent becomes involuntarily underemployed or unemployed then they should obtain copies of all termination notices, cover letters seeking employment, lists of appointments and interviews, job searches, and a calendar of daily efforts made to find suitable employment. This type of documentation can prove to a court that the parent was in fact let go or fired from work. In addition, this provides evidence of a sort that the parent has been or is making a good faith effort to seek suitable employment opportunities.
Has your financial situation changed recently and you want to if you qualify for a COVID-19 modification? Are an unmarried mother interested in collecting or enforcing financial support from the father of the child or an unwed father and you want to know about your rights and obligations related to paying child support?
Contact a Brick Support and Visitation Enforcement Attorney Today
Bronzino Law Firm, LLC has extensive experience helping clients in towns like Toms River, Point Pleasant, Wall, Jackson, and the surrounding areas to quickly and efficiently petition the courts to intervene in cases where a former spouse or co-parent is not living up to their child support agreement, or an unmarried parent is interested in collecting financial support or just needs to know about their rights and obligations.
Our smaller size allows us to develop personal and attentive relationships with our clients while charging reasonable and fair rates for our services. We believe that by communicating regularly and honestly with our clients, we can best help them to make the difficult decisions necessary when it comes to divorce law, and effectively and favorably resolve any resulting issues.
To speak with our firm today in a free and confidential consultation regarding enforcement of your child support, spousal support, or parenting time order, contact us online or through our Brick, NJ office at (732) 812-3102.
The Effects of Quarantine on Divorced Couples discussed by Brick Family Lawyers
For families, whose co-parenting and custody arrangements were already a touchy subject, COVID-19 may be amplifying conflicts and creating new ones.
For separated or divorced families, co-parenting can be stressful even in good times. During the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, families are discovering that previously stable arrangements may not withstand the stresses created by fears of illness and mandates to shelter in place or mandatory self-quarantine regulations when returning from out of state.
The key to peaceful coexistence when it comes to child custody arrangements is communication. The more information, ideas, concerns, and possible solutions that are shared between you and your ex-spouse, the easier the situation will be.
In a crisis, children and parents alike need a place where they feel safe. Safety is typically found in family and when there is discord, children feel insecure. Post-divorce parenting falls into three categories: conflicted, parallel, or cooperative, according to Dr. Charuvastra, a leading psychologist in the area of family counseling. The majority of divorced parents start out either in a conflicted or parallel mode. Conflicted parenting is where the parents frequently argue with each other, often about parenting or money. Parallel parenting is where parents do not communicate much, and children live in two disconnected spheres. Cooperative parenting is where parents are flexible, communicate, compromise, and try to create a single parenting world for their kids, even though there are two households.
When it comes to parenting, emergencies force us to adjust to an unexpected and sometimes upsetting new set of facts. Even for parents who have had very little success communicating and compromising, the latest health crisis has brought about a change in attitudes and parents are more willing to work together for the health and well-being of their children.
What Should I Do If My Child Has Visited My Ex In Another State?
Under the 14-day quarantine travel advisory announced by the Governors of New Jersey, individuals traveling to or returning to New Jersey from states with increasing rates of COVID-19 are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes travel by train, bus, car, airplane, and any other method of transportation. There are approximately 30 states on the list which can be found here.
The Governor’s order states: “Travelers and residents returning from impacted states should self-quarantine at their home, a hotel, or another temporary lodging. Individuals should only leave the place of self-quarantine to seek medical care/treatment or to obtain food and other essential items. As one example, no one who has traveled to or from a state on the COVID-19 hotspot list should be participating in or attending an in-person graduation ceremony.”
With these stipulations, you and your former spouse are going to have to work together and be as flexible as possible. The key is communication. If your ex wants to quarantine with your child in New Jersey, there are several options such as a hotel or Air B&B. You could offer to make grocery trips to help with the quarantine. If those 14 days are extra time that the child has with your ex, be sure and put the agreement in writing in case you need the details for future agreements.
On the other hand, if your ex refuses to change the plan and wants to make a quick drop off at the conclusion of their time, as originally planned you could be in trouble because that would mean your child’s quarantine would fall directly on you. It may affect your job or if you have any high-risk relatives that live with you. If you plan to self-isolate at home, make a detailed record of what you do and the expenditures incurred.
How Can We Create a Temporary Emergency Plan?
Negotiating a temporary agreement can mean setting up adherence to the new plan until a specific date, or it can be more flexible (Ex. Until Phase 2 or 3 is in effect). Also, there should be a stipulation as to what happens if someone within one home or the other becomes sick or tests positive for the virus. In keeping in line with the children’s best interests, parents who work in hospitals or are first responders may want to reconsider prolonged home visits with their children due to the possibility of exposure. Your attorney is your best resource to build this temporary plan.
What If I Lose Visitation Time due to Quarantine Restrictions?
1. Talk with your ex
Discuss with your ex and plan more visits or an extended period of time to make up for the missed visitation. It can be that simple.
2. Take advantage of technology.
Although it is not the ideal, watch movies on a shared screen, cook together or read a book. It is not the same as a face-to-face visit, but it can certainly go a long way when your child is missing you.
3. Establish a “Social Distancing” contract.
This can be a simple written document in which you both agree to follow CDC and local guidelines that both of you and your child wear a mask and stay in the “family bubble”. Including actual social distancing guidelines (no birthday parties or book clubs) and an agreement to follow diligent hygiene practices can bring peace of mind to the parent who does not have the child with them. However, this contract does not permit either parent to withhold visitation because they feel the other parent is not following the proper guidelines and is putting the child at risk for exposure.
What it all boils down to is communication and a willingness to put the needs of your children ahead of your feelings toward your ex. Neither party will be 100% happy all the time and juggling visitation while trying to keep your family safe during a pandemic can seem an insurmountable task.
Contact a Monmouth County Co-Parenting Attorney Today
This is why our family law experts at Bronzino Law our unique approach to family law centers around creating family life plans out of family law problems. By listening carefully to all of your needs and concerns, and keeping you highly informed and involved throughout the legal process, we believe we can work together to achieve the results you need in your unique legal situation.
Crafting a Fair Parenting Plan Agreement in Monmouth and Ocean County NJ
A child custody arrangement is always set up in the best interests of the child.
In the State of New Jersey, regardless of the amount of time a parent spends with their child as outlined in a shared custody agreement, whether or not they are the custodial (live-in) parent or the non-custodial parent, the court system refers to this time as “parenting time.”
As part of the divorce proceedings, a couple with children will prepare for a custody hearing to legally determine whether the couple will share custody, or whether one parent will have sole custody. However, when crafting any parenting plan the two words that must be at the forefront are specificity and flexibility.
Being specific in your parenting time plan is absolutely crucial in avoiding future problems. The more specific your plan is, the less likely it is that you will experience conflict in the future. A good parenting time plan should address the following:
- How will parental decision making be handled? For example, how will education, medical, religious, and extracurricular activity decisions be made?
- Access to the children’s records, notification policies, and how to handle emergencies.
- Parenting time/living arrangement also known as the physical custody arrangement.
- Regular parenting time schedule.
- Parenting time for holidays, vacation time, birthdays, and special occasions.
- Specific times and locations for parenting time transitions.
- Alternate arrangements, e., right of first refusal, and how to handle make-up parenting time.
- Parent/child communications, e., telephone/FaceTime contact with the parent not exercising parenting time.
It is critical to make sure the parenting plan specific to your family and to fit your family’s needs.
As specific as you want to be in writing a parenting plan, you will also need to be flexible. It is critical to understand that children and things will and do change. The list of changes that can occur in the future is long and impossible to predict, to say the least. There may be new schools, new activities, etc. Parents move, change jobs, get remarried, etc. A good parenting plan as well as the parents will need to be flexible to address changes as they occur. As long as both parents remain committed to the goal of providing a parenting time plan that is in the best interests of their children and that provides frequent and quality parenting time for each parent, then being flexible should not be an issue.
What is the difference between physical and legal custody?
The very simple distinction between physical and legal custody is that parents with legal custody can make legal decisions on behalf of their children, such as medical decisions and schooling matters. In cases where parents have joint legal custody, both can legally weigh in on those matters that impact the child. When there is a major difference of opinion, the agreement is often set up so that the courts can resolve the matter.
Physical custody means that the child lives with that parent. Parents who have joint physical custody share the time living with their child either through nesting, in which the child lives in the marital home, and the parents switch off; or the child moves to the homes of either parent during the set time. Further important definitions of custody are as follows:
- Shared Physical Custody: In an agreement in which each parent spends an equal amount of time with their child. Traditionally, this takes the form of alternating weeks; however, some children fare better with shorter time periods away from either parent, and some fare better with the stability provided by physically remaining in one parent’s home for longer, such as a month at a time.
- Residential Parent and Alternate Residential Parent agreements are when one parent is the primary custodial caregiver of the parent. The other, or ‘alternate,’ has a more traditional schedule of visitation, spending every other weekend, perhaps, with the child, as well as partial summer vacations.
- Sole Physical Custody: Simply defined is when one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is strictly limited in the amount of parenting time they are allowed to spend with the child. Depending on the conditions of the sole custody ruling, these visits may even be supervised. New Jersey Family Part court tends to lean toward both parents having some form of contact with the child, even if it must be supervised.
In the case of both joint physical and joint legal custody agreements, there are usually clauses written into the parenting time agreement that determines the amount of time each parent has with the child. This could be laid out as a schedule in addition to a percentage time frame. Because a custody agreement is a legally binding, each parent by law must abide by the time constraints ordered by the court.
Given that time with their child or children is precious to all parents, having the support of an experienced attorney during the process of negotiating the parenting time schedule with one’s ex and their legal team, as well as in the case of a breach of the agreement, is of critical importance in order to ensure that your rights and the wellbeing of your child are met.
Get in touch with a Wall Township Parenting Time and Family Law Attorney Today
At Bronzino Law Firm, our New Jersey divorce attorneys are skilled in supporting families across in Point Pleasant, Brick, Wall, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and the greater Ocean and Monmouth County Areas as they undergo the process of negotiating custody agreements and parenting time schedules.
Our direct approach ensures that the best interests of the child and the rights of our parent clients are met in compatible ways.
COVID-19 Related Co-Parenting Questions: How Can I Compensate Lost Time with my Kids?
Brick and Sea Girt Custody Attorneys Understand How Important Quality Time with your Children can be While Facing Quarantine
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a myriad of effects across the globe. One such way it has disrupted people’s flow of life is that it has made it impossible for many co-parents to spend the amount of parenting time with their children that their New Jersey parenting time agreement dictates. Due to stay-at-home orders, canceled air travel, and social distancing measures, many parents have missed out on time with their children that are essential to their healthy bond. So what if the pandemic has blocked you from your merited time with your child?
Communicate with your co-parent.
During the course of determining your custody arrangement and your parenting time agreement, you have come to some very specific, court-ordered schedules for how your child’s time will be divided between parents, and what expectations are for how co-parents will share the duties of raising the child. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these routines have been shot to pieces. In the same way that making slight adjustments to your parenting time schedule due to Coronavirus is probably not an issue for the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part to weigh in on – unless one parent is actively withholding another parent’s rights to spend court-approved time with their child – new small adjustments to make up for lost time can likely be handled by you, the co-parents, by coming to an informal arrangement.
In order to successfully navigate making parenting time schedule shifts to address lost visits, communication is key. Be honest about your interest in adding additional weekends or evenings, and kindly cite the specifics of the upsets to the schedule. You may have to negotiate, so be prepared to really listen to the needs of your co-parent, and communicate compassionately. Know that stress levels are high after these many months of uncertainty and change across the board, and emotional exhaustion may play a role in conversations. While you have a right to your court-mandated parenting time, you can get it while also tending to the potentially fried nerves of a homeschooling co-parent.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way school districts across New Jersey are approaching schooling in the fall of 2020. Communicate with your co-parent about the remote or in-person learning schedules your child is going to have in the fall. Work together to come up with a homeschooling schedule, if necessary, that addresses the custodial parent’s work needs. Also, be prepared to shift your transportation routines outlined in the original parenting time schedule; and add specific agreements about how your child’s (and your own) safety will be ensured through social distancing and hygiene measures during parenting time moving forward.
Whatever changes your positive communication leads to, additional steps may be required to ensure they are legally upheld. As such, put all changes in writing. If they are drastic, prepare to reach out to your family law attorney to inquire as to whether the Family Court will require that you submit proposed updates to your parenting time agreement. You can also connect with your attorney if attempts at negotiating make-up time with your co-parent have been unsuccessful; there you can calculate lost time and seek counsel on legal next steps to take to recuperate that time.
Additionally, Put yourself in your co-parent’s shoes, and consider how their own schedule may have been disrupted due to having your child for more time than was originally planned; ask if there are any particular schedules or weekends that may help them to catch up on something they were not able to attend to. Consider this rebalancing act an opportunity to not only bond with your child but to demonstrate that you and your co-parent are truly partners in the journey of parenthood.
Creative ways to schedule the make-up time
There are many ways you could recuperate lost time. Consider long weekends, additional evenings, and late summer/early fall vacations of a few days to a few weeks. Again, depending on your child’s school set-up this fall, you may be in charge of overseeing remote learning during the time you spend together. Also remember the power of virtual communication – while video calls are not the same as in-person connection, creating daily routines of talking “face to face” and even helping with homework build strong bonds over the course of time.
Get in Touch with a Parenting time Attorney to discuss your options in the middle of COVID times
At The Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, our team of family law attorneys supports clients across the Jersey Shore in Point Pleasant, Toms River, Jackson, Wall and Sea Girt in all custody arrangements and family time agreement matters.
Coparenting Vrs Pararell Parenting in High Conflict Divorce Cases
Co-parenting can take many different forms depending on the individuals
When a couple with children divorces, there is much more to be navigated than the division of assets and a custody arrangement. Where children are involved, separation is only the legal end to a marriage; it is the beginning of a lifelong partnership as co-parents, two adults responsible for the best interests of their children, regardless of their own interpersonal relationship.
In an ideal situation, separated parents work together to create a sense of consistency and stability in a child’s life, though that child is experiencing that consistency across households. This is called co-parenting, and it is a collaboration between exes to share time and parenting responsibilities in service of raising a well-adjusted young person. Co-parenting can take many different forms depending on the individuals, but it absolutely involves a mutual interest in working together to provide a stable and seamless home environment for the child.
What to do when they can absolutely not work together to navigate shared parenting?
So what are exes to do when they can absolutely not work together to navigate shared parenting, and all interaction breaks down into conflict? In this case, it may be in the best interest of the child for the parents to explore parallel parenting.
According to New Jersey law, a separating couple with children must come up with a parenting time agreement as part of their custody arrangement. A parenting time agreement outlines the schedules determining which time frames the child will spend with each parent, as well as how transportation to and from school and extracurricular activities will be handled, how holidays will be shared, and ways the non-custodial parent will maintain contact with the child in their physical absence. When a separated couple is mutually committed to co-parenting, the parenting time agreement can be fairly smooth, if the logistically complex, process to complete. When one or both parents want to undermine the other’s relationship with their child, however, a legally binding parenting time agreement can be harder to come by.
With support from an experienced legal team, a high-conflict couple can forge an agreement for shared custody that limits interaction to bare necessities and spares the child from being in the middle of a battlefield. This is called parallel parenting.
How is parallel parenting different from co-parenting?
Parallel parenting is a minimal-interaction form of raising a child with an ex. While co-parenting involves a relational climate of open communication to discuss the goings-on of the child and minor logistics of their upbringing and schedule, parallel parenting takes a more hands-off approach as far as parental coordination is concerned. Raising a child with your ex using the strategy of parallel parenting because of high conflict doesn’t make you a bad parent or a failure. On the contrary, it can be a very wise form of engaging co-parenting, because withdrawal from the interaction can often have a less damaging effect on a child than high-conflict parental presence.
Why communicating only information is important
When a divorced pair cannot communicate in a healthy and non-manipulative way, limiting communication to strict passage of information is key. Outline in the parenting time agreement the ways in which emails and other forms of communication will be used, and do not stray from those guidelines except in the case of emergency.
When a boundary is crossed or a decided-upon arrangement broken, use the tenets of nonviolent communication to clearly state your feelings and provide a specific request. Keep your child at the center of your mind when communicating with your ex – remember that you are both in the raising of your child together, and in that way, you are on the same team.
The psychological effect of parental alienation
Many high conflict parents will turn to parental alienation as a way to turn their child against the other parent. Parental alienation is the use of manipulative language to convince a child that their other parent is not a good person. The result is that the child begins to pull away from the other parent or even actively become hostile toward them. Parental alienation isn’t only a divisive tactic that can result in the other parent being legally liberated from child support or college tuition payments down the road. It causes deep psychological harm to the child and trauma that can take years or a lifetime to heal.
Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Brick and Sea Girt NJ Today
At Bronzino Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in supporting our clients cross Spring Lake, Toms River, Point Pleasant, Brick, and Ocean County in navigating relationships with their ex-spouses to fulfill their custody arrangements and parenting time agreements.
Primary Custodial Parent – Children’s Bill of Rights Attorneys Brick NJ
Do you know there are different custodial arrangements and that all of them must meet the statutes listed in New Jersey’s Children’s Bill of Rights?
Child custody cases are complex and require a skilled attorney to address your unique concerns. At Bronzino Law Firm, our attorneys have the expertise to help you to obtain the best custody agreement for your family. They are experts at negotiating, establishing, and enforcing child custody agreements. Our team is committed to helping clients reach custodial arrangements that meet their needs and the needs of their children.
What is the primary custodial parent?
When the parents of a child separate, divorce, or when one parent dies, child custody issues often arise. There are two types of custody: legal and physical custody. A court has the authority to make any custodial arrangement determined to be best for the children. These arrangements can include joint legal and joint physical custody, joint legal custody with sole physical custody and a visitation agreement with the other parent, sole custody to one parent and visitation to the other parent, or a combination of any of those agreements.
Parents with legal custody make the major life decisions on behalf of the child, which are important aspects of their health, safety, and welfare. Other examples include education, religious practice, and extra-curricular activities or sports.
Parents who have physical custody are the ones present with the child at their residence. The parent who spends most of the time with the child has primary physical custody, making them the primary custodial parent.
Examples of such decisions include decisions about what kind of schooling, medical care, and religious instruction the child receives. Parents with physical custody rights are physically present with the child at the child’s residence. The parent who spends most of the time with the child or children has “primary physical custody” and is referred to as the “primary custodial parent.”
What is the New Jersey Children’s Bill of Rights, and how does it affect our child custody agreement?
Divorce is a complicated issue not only for the parents but for the children as well. If you are a parent, divorce will not only be emotionally difficult and complicated for you but for your children as well. In New Jersey, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have adopted a set of guidelines, which are often used by lawyers and judges in legal agreements and court orders. This is the New Jersey Children’s Bill of Rights and was established to protect children’s well-being and emotional needs involved in a legal issue. Its guidelines address post-separation custody and visitation issues that parents and their attorneys should discuss. Even in the most bitter od separations, the children are never to blame and deserve to feel safe and secure, rather than to be used as pawns in an argument out of their understanding and control.
Some of the statutes to consider thoughtfully are listed below.
- The Courts must guarantee that the best interests of the child shall be of primary consideration.
- Children should live in a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment and know and be cared for by the child’s parent or legal guardian, except in circumstances when the child’s removal from his parent or legal guardian is in the child’s best interests;
- Children’s religion, culture, language, a relationship with a parent or legal guardian must be protected.
- To the State’s best efforts, to respect the child’s right to his identity, including nationality, name, and family relations, as recognized by law.
- Respect the child’s parent or legal guardian’s responsibilities and rights to provide, in a manner consistent with the child’s development, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights articulated in this bill of rights.
- Children must be free from physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional abuse, neglect, cruelty, and any form of discipline that humiliates, demeans or inflicts unnecessary mental or physical suffering or pain.
- Children must be free from discrimination or harassment based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation; and
- Children must receive adequate and nutritious food, suitable clothing and housing, appropriate medical care, and mental health services.
Consult our Experienced Custody Attorneys
Now that you know the different kinds of custody and how the Children’s Bill of Rights should go hand in hand with any custody agreement, it is a perfect time to contact us at Bronzino Law Firm. Our top-notch legal team is ready to help you create a custody agreement tailored to your family’s unique needs. We look forward to helping you create a family plan that will work for everyone involved.
At Bronzino Law Firm, our team is experienced in representing clients across Point Pleasant, Brick, Wall, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and the greater Ocean and Monmouth County Areas in divorce, custody, domestic violence, and other family law matter.