Articles Posted in Child Custody

There is no bright line rule in New Jersey concerning the appropriate age at which a child’s input will be the determining factor regarding where the child wants to live once that child’s parents are divorced.  custody-litigation--300x200

Of course, common sense prevails with respect to the fact that a four-year old child usually doesn’t have such an ability or the capacity to make a meaningful decision, while a seventeen year old child is basically going to reside wherever he or she wants to reside regardless of any court order.  Regardless of age, it is the sole role of the court, not the child, to determine what is in  “the best interests of the child”, and this includes a determination of where the child should reside.

Certainly, the older the child, the greater weight a court will place on that child’s thoughts and preferences with respect to where the child wants to reside upon  conclusion of the divorce.  However, other factors along with age must be considered, among them the overall maturity of the child and, critically, whether that child has been unduly influenced or even alienated by a parent when giving his or her opinion.

Do you have a New Jersey custody and parenting time order that allows your child’s other parent to have parenting time with your child?

Do you now believe your child’s safety and welfare may be at risk when with the other parent because you believe that parent may be using drugs or alcohol ?

Sometimes, as a parent, you may know that your child’s mother or father has a substance abuse addiction that threatens your child’s safety and welfare.  However, you may be lost as to how to prove that parent’s addiction to the court in order to protect your child.  Indeed, the process of demonstrating a parent’s substance abuse addiction to a court can sometimes be a difficult process, especially since actual “proof” of the addiction (other than you personally observing that parent’s behavior) may be hard to gather.   However, with the right legal advice, it can be easier than you think to successfully prove to the court that your child’s mother or father has a substance addiction that poses a threat to your child.

How does the court decide which parent gets custody?

When parents cannot agree about issues concerning the custody of their minor children, the court will attempt to determine a custody arrangement that will be in the “best interest” of the children. This is typically accomplished after the court has reviewed evidence such as each party’s testimony, statements of other witnesses, and the results of the report of the “best interest evaluator” (a forensic psychologist or other qualified professional who assists the court). In some instances, the court may also consider the testimony of the children themselves, but only if they are of a sufficient age and capacity. In such situations, the judge usually speaks to the children outside the presence of the parents.

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What visitation rights will I have if my spouse has physical custody of our children following our divorce?

In New Jersey, the term “visitation” is the antiquated terminology that simply  refers to parenting time that the non-custodial parent spends with the parties’ minor child(ren).  In fact, the terms “custodial” and “non-custodial” parent are not used any longer.   Rather, the more politically correct and current terminology uses two new designations  – the  PPR and the PAR.   These acronyms stand for “Parent of Primary Residence” (PPR) and “Parent of Alternate Residence” (PAR).  Essentially, the PPR is the parent at whose home the children reside the majority of their time.  Sometimes, if the parents share a true 50-50 (equal) parenting time, neither parent would be designated the PPR.  Sometimes however, even under these circumstances, it may be necessary to designate one parent as the PPR solely for school registration purposes, especially if the two parents live in different school districts or zones.    If the parties can work out an agreement between themselves, the court will usually approve it. Otherwise, the court must decide what type of arrangement will be in the best interests of the child(ren).

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covid19Are you concerned about the safety of your child during parenting time?

During this more than troubling time, where it feels like there is no safe shelter from the Corona Virus, all parents are having extreme concerns about the safety of their children, and their other family members, when it comes to whether a child should be transferred between homes for court ordered parenting time.

If you are having any questions or concerns about exposing your child to the virus by way of permitting parenting time, or whether you have questions or concerns about not being permitted to have parenting time with your child because of the other parent’s claims of possible exposure, you are not alone.        The law is clear that the existence of the pandemic, in and of itself, is not grounds to suspend parenting time in New Jersey.  However, this does not mean that the courts will permit all parenting time in cases where a child’s exposure to the Corona Virus is higher than the average circumstance.  Every case with respect to parenting time that comes before the court will be taken on a case by case basis, depending on the facts of the case.

My grandchild has lived with me for several years, but his mother wants him back now. What are my rights?

Until 1993, grandparents in New Jersey were not permitted to seek the right to visit with a grandchild as long as the child’s immediate family unit was intact. Currently, a grandparent who seeks visitation must show the family court that such an arrangement is in the best interests of his or her grandchild. When considering such an application, a court will consider the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild as well as the effect a visitation order will likely have on the child’s relationship with his or her custodial parent.According to the 2010 United States Census, about one in 10 children across the nation resides with a grandparent. In a number of cases, a grandparent becomes a child’s primary caregiver due to a parent’s unfortunate circumstances, such as unemployment, drug addiction, or imprisonment. In order to preserve a custodial relationship, a grandparent may obtain legal custody through a court order, seek guardianship, or adopt the child. In situations where a grandparent is provided with legal custody or appointed a child’s guardian, the child’s parents retain the right to engage in parenting time. When a child is adopted, a parent’s legal rights are terminated.

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My former spouse took a job in another state and wants to move our child there. Can I stop this from occurring?

Typically, a New Jersey child custody order provides for regularly scheduled parenting time with each parent. Relocating a child to another state can significantly interfere with this schedule. Because of this, a custodial parent, or parent of primary residence (“PPR”), is prohibited from removing a couple’s children to another state without following the steps required by New Jersey law. A parent who fails to follow the steps enumerated in the law may be prosecuted for unlawful interference with parenting time.

Typically, a non-custodial parent, or parent of alternate residence (“PAR”), must consent to an interstate move prior to a child’s removal from New Jersey. In order to prevent future disputes, it is a good idea to ensure any such agreement is made in writing. If the PAR does not provide his or her consent, a court order must be obtained before a child may be removed from the state. In situations when a custodial parent is fleeing from an immediate risk of harm by a child’s other parent or the child’s welfare is presently at risk, a PPR must report his or her child’s emergency removal to the appropriate authorities within 24 hours.

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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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