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Articles Posted in Child Custody

How can a permanent resident who illegally brought his or her child to New Jersey in order to escape abuse gain legal custody and ensure the child is allowed to remain in the United States?

In August, the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that Family Part judges may not grant “special immigrant juvenile” status to immigrant children who are residing in New Jersey illegally. According to the high court, Family Part judges are permitted to make determinations regarding the best interests of such children and ascertain whether a child who applies for special immigration status would be placed at risk for neglect, abuse, or abandonment if returned to his or her home country. After that, the Supreme Court stated the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) must make the final determination regarding a child’s immigration status.

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Will evidence of my spouse’s infidelity affect our divorce?

Recently, personal information related to millions of users of an online dating site for married people became publicly available as a result of a data breach. Since then, there has been wide speculation regarding the potential fallout for exposed cheaters. Famous persons, political figures, and individuals from all walks of life apparently utilized the now-hacked website, created in an effort to facilitate affairs for married people. Although infidelity is one of the many grounds for divorce proceedings in New Jersey, it is no longer a smoking gun under the current no-fault divorce regime that exists across the bulk of the nation.

In New Jersey, adultery does not lead to any sort of punitive or other damages against the partner who was unfaithful. Typically, a couple’s assets and any debts or other liabilities that were acquired during the marriage will be divided “equitably” (not necessarily equally) upon divorce. This often includes any assets that are held in only one party’s name.   As a general rule, the manner in which the title to an asset is held which was aquired during the term of the marriage, may be disregarded.  Certain factors can, however, impact the manner in which that asset may be equitably distributed.  Despite this, an adulterer may be required to reimburse the marital estate for any funds that were spent on an extramarital affair or paramour. For example, the money a cheater paid for an online dating site profile, hotel costs, and other expenses associated with an affair may be factored into a divorcing couple’s property settlement.

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New Jersey’s Family Court Recognizes the Changing Times in Which We Live- Judge Rules that a Permanent Restriction on an Ex-Spouse’s Paramour Staying over His or Her House When the Child is Residing at the Home May NOT be Enforceable.

Can my ex-husband allow his new girlfriend to spend the night while our child is at his home for parenting time?    This is the question that Mrs. Mantle, an Ocean County post -divorce litigant wanted to know.  She believed she could enforce such a restriction.  The Court believed otherwise.   Judge Lawrence Jones sitting in the Ocean County Superior Court, Family Part, was willing to tackle this sensitive issue we family law practitioners frequently encounter in the divorce cases we handle at Goldstein Law Group.   Until now, there was little guidance on what time periods or other conditions, if any, were reasonable for an ex-spouse to ultimately expose his or her children to that spouse’s new significant other, in particular, to have the paramour sleep over the house when the children were also residing there.   We, as family law attorneys, counseled our clients accordingly, based upon the ages of the child or children, the living arrangements, any psychological issues the child or the parties were facing, and other case sensitive factors.  In many instances, the parties sought to impose “DaVita” restraints (taken from the case in which Mr. and Mrs DaVita addressed such issues, and there were restraints imposed on the exposure of children post-divorce to a parent’s significant other. Here, Judge Jones recently ruled that blanket DaVita restraints are not generally enforceable.  Rather, divorcing parents may not permanently ban a child from interacting with a parent’s new significant other without proof of inappropriate conduct.  In Mantle v. Mantle, two divorcing parents agreed to indefinitely restrict either parent’s new paramour from having access to their child during parenting time.  A few months later, the child’s mother sought to enforce the open-ended “no exposure to dating partners” requirement on his father.  Despite this, the mother did not assert that the father’s new girlfriend committed any inappropriate or harmful acts in the presence of her son.

According to the family court, a 1976 Appellate Court case upheld a trial court’s decision to place a restriction on a child’s access to his or her parents’ dating partners.  In DaVita, the court ruled the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted a mother’s request that her former spouse’s girlfriend be prohibited from spending the night during the father’s parenting time.  In that case, the court added that the decision was not contrary to the current societal norms in the community.

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My spouse and I would like to legally separate before deciding whether to divorce. Can we do this?

The legal separation of married couples is technically not permitted in the State of New Jersey.  Instead, spouses may choose to separate informally, enter into a separation agreement, or consider a limited divorce. In a “divorce from bed and board,” (also known as  Limited Divorce) a married couple has the option to end their marriage from a financial standpoint while still remaining legally married. Since it may be revoked, a limited divorce makes it easier for spouses to later reconcile. Similarly, such a divorce may be converted into a standard judgment of  (Absolute) divorce. Since all support determinations and asset distributions are made when a “divorce from bed and board” is granted, property and financial issues are no longer an issue if a New Jersey couple ultimately chooses to end their marriage after engaging in a limited divorce.

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I keep reading about celebrity co-parenting in the news. What does it mean?

Unfortunately, no one is immune from divorce. Couples across all walks of life from celebrities to your favorite friends or neighbors choose to end their marriages every year. Regardless of the cause, it is important for divorcing parents in New Jersey to work together to ensure the best possible outcome for their children. Although ending a marriage is no doubt difficult for the divorcing couple, parents should remember that their children are likely experiencing similar feelings of loss, anger, betrayal, and emotional pain.

Most couples in New Jersey and elsewhere don’t consider on their wedding day that they may divorce. Similarly, many parents never pictured themselves negotiating parenting time or alternating holidays with their children. In order to provide kids with the stability they need, many former couples choose to co-parent. While effective co-parenting can be difficult at times, working towards this common goal is often vital for a child’s well-being. How do you do that? Good question!  Here’s how.

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My children are on summer break from school, and I would like to take them on vacation. May I do so?

Due to work, summer camp, vacation, and other obligations, a child’s schedule can vary wildly during the summer. Since it is common for parents to disagree about summertime custody and parenting time  schedules, all divorced or separated parents in New Jersey should have a clearly defined summertime child custody and parenting time arrangement. Such an agreement may be formal or informal, depending on the needs of the parties.

Normally, a family switches to a summer custody schedule when the school year ends. Others choose to wait until Memorial Day or the first day of summer. Regardless, a variety of tools from simple written calendars to smartphone apps can help separated or divorced parents stay abreast of a child’s often changing summer schedule. Even if summer activities do not have a direct effect on parenting time, it may be helpful for parents to communicate with each other in order to stay informed or ensure that particularly active weeks are followed by more low-key events.

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I suffer from a mental illness and my spouse wants a divorce.  Can this hurt my chances for gaining custody of our children?

In general, the best interests of the child are of paramount importance in a New Jersey child custody matter.  In some situations, a parent’s physical and mental health history may be relevant when child custody is determined.  For instance, if a parent’s mental health issues have a negative impact on his or her ability to parent a former couple’s children, a family court will normally take this into account.  In order to utilize such medical information, however, medical records must be obtained.

In particularly contentious child custody matters, a psychologist may be engaged to evaluate each parent and make a custody recommendation to the family court.  In order to make such a recommendation, the psychologist will need to obtain access to each parent’s medical and mental health records.  Sometimes, such records are also required in order to confirm or refute the other parent’s mental illness claims.

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I am a member of the United States military who just learned that I am being deployed overseas. Will I lose the right to see my children?

In general, each New Jersey parent has the right to a specified amount of parenting time. Courts will typically make this determination based on the best interests of a former couple’s child. For parents who are members of the military, this right can be interrupted as a result of deployment. If you recently received notice of your deployment, you probably have a lot of questions. Of paramount importance is — what happens to your children while you are away?.

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A primary caretaker’s job offer warranted the removal of a divorced New Jersey couple’s minor children to another state. In a recent Appellate Division ruling, a couple married in 2005 and had twins in 2009. At the time of their marriage, both spouses were employed by an investment banking firm. Not long after their wedding, however, the husband lost his job and remained unemployed until he filed for divorce in 2011. During this time, the wife earned about $300,000 per year.

About one year after the father initiated divorce proceedings, his former wife lost her job effective December 31, 2012. She was also promised a bonus and severance package worth approximately $200,000. Following a divorce trial, the couple reached a custody settlement that was incorporated in their Dual Final Judgment of Divorce (“DJOD”).  In September 2012, the family court entered a final judgment of divorce which provided that the mother was designated as the Parent of Primary Residence (the “PPR”) and the father as the Parent of Alternate Residence (the “PAR”).

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A mother’s extreme difficulty in obtaining international travel documents to allow her children to visit their father at his home in Brazil did not warrant changing the parents’ custody arrangement from joint to sole custody, according to a recent Appellate Division ruling. While the family’s travel complexities were a new development, they did not rise to the level of a “substantial change in circumstances,” as needed to modify an existing child custody arrangement. As this case highlights, courts, in the interest of stability for the children, require significant showings in order to change custody arrangements.

The custody dispute involved two former spouses, Paulo and Sandra Costa, who divorced in 2006 after 12 years of marriage. At the time of the divorce, with both of the Costas living in New Jersey, they agreed to joint custody of their two children, who were six and nine. Three years later, though, the father relocated to a small town near Sao Paolo, Brazil.

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