What you should consider when crafting a Parenting Plan
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.