CHILD CUSTODY & VISITATION
Both parents have a right to proper parenting time with their children. We represent fathers and mothers. Grandparents and other relatives do not have a right to visit their grandchildren except in special circumstances. A grandparent must prove that the child will be harmed without visitation from them before a Court will order grandparent visitation; typically when the grandparent plays more of a parenting role. Parents can agree to allow grandparent visitation. They should keep in mind that the child may benefit from a relationship with his grandparents even if the parents do not get along. It can strengthen the child’s connection to his heritage and extended family.
HOW DO NEW JERSEY COURTS DECIDES WHO GETS CUSTODY?
Many factors are involved in determining the parenting arrangement after divorce, including but not limited to, the parents’ abilities to cooperate and communicate, and the parents’ historic roles during the marriage, and feasibility of a parenting arrangement considering the work responsibilities of the parents, and proximity of their homes after the divorce. Is-sues of abuse and unfitness; i.e., drug/alcohol issues and domestic violence also are, of course, considered. Preference of the child, when over the age of 14, is a relevant factor. Educational opportunities for the children and the children’s age are also relevant factors to be considered.
In today’s world, mothers and fathers typically both actively participate in the day-to-day care of the children. So after the divorce, the children should also have the benefit of spending quality time with both parents.
The Courts and psychologists support shared parenting arrangements. An arrangement that is best for the child after depends on the age of the child. The need for young children to bond may be different than the needs of older children that prefer longer blocks of time to avoid shifting back and forth. Both mothers and fathers are necessary in a child’s life. A typical shared parenting arrangement that is effective in many cases is Monday Tuesday (Parent 1), Wednesday Thursday (Parent 2), Friday Saturday, and Sunday alternated by parents so each parent has a block of five days.
Many studies show children of divorce are often more independent and young children are often resilient if parents divorce. The two factors that cause children greatest difficulties – parents that continue to fight and strictly limiting parenting time. Children that were studied after divorce wanted to spend time with both parents. It didn’t have to be 50/50 but they wanted a good relationship with both Mom and Dad.
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Both the mother and the father have equal rights to parenting time with their child where the parents are separated or divorced. Traditionally, the mother was designated the parent of primary residence. This meant that the child lived with the mother more than half of the time. Traditionally, the father was called the parent of alternate residence. Nowadays, shared parenting is extremely common, where each parent has fifty percent of the time with the child. It gives the child the benefit of having his/her mother and father share in the parenting. This can work well when the parents live near each other and the child/children’s school is accessible from both homes.
Custody can be broken down into legal custody and physical custody. Joint legal custody is common. Both parents have the right and obligation to make decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child. Physical custody is where the child is physically. Custody can be agreed upon by the parties or can be Court ordered, if necessary. It is better to agree upon custody unless there is a real risk of harm to the child, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, and other conditions in which the child will be unsafe. A custody battle will invoke a psychologist’s expert testimony in most cases.
Children should never be used as pawns of the parents. Unfortunately, there are cases of child abduction. Tanya Helfand has handled these cases, from simple passport possession issues to interstate custody litigation and international child custody issues and enforcement, as well as related issues varying from passport suspension to collection of child support arrears. Remember that children should be prioritized in a divorce. When making plans or fighting, think about how it feels or how it will affect the child.
For a free half hour consultation call Tanya Helfand of Schenck Price at 973-539-1000 or contact us online. Our experienced matrimonial attorneys, handling all aspects of Family Law. Tanya N. Helfand, Esq. is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney, a Mediator and Panelist in the Morris and Essex County ESP Programs. The firm welcomes your questions and inquiries at [email protected]. We handle cases in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Hudson, Union, Somerset, Sussex and other New Jersey counties.