Articles Posted in Child Custody

In a recent New Jersey family law case, a divorced man tried to compel a paternity test to determine whether or not he was the father of his ex-wife’s children. Although he once had an opportunity to file a motion to verify the children’s parentage in the past, he waived that right. As a result, New Jersey legal doctrine and an agreement signed by the ex-husband now bar him from demanding a paternity test. When you are negotiating a child custody issue, it is important to work with a family law attorney who can fully explain the ramifications of a proposed post-separation agreement.

Mark and Jane had been married for seven years, during which time Jane gave birth to two children:  Randi and Kim. Mark had often suspected that Jane was having a sexual affair with Mark’s friend Jim. Eventually Jim died in a car accident, but the strain of suspicion lingered ,and Mark and Jane eventually got a divorce.

When filing for divorce, Mark brought up his suspicion that the children were not his. The family law judge even paused the case so that Mark could “amend his divorce complaint and for [an] order to compel a paternity test.” But Mark decided not to pursue a paternity test, and after a contentious period of negotiation,  Jane and Mark came to an agreement regarding their divorce. Their Post-Separation Agreement (PSA) mentioned the paternity dilemma several times, noting that Mark was unsure about the children’s parentage, and that he would pay reduced child support and surrender his custody rights due to the uncertainty of the situation. Continue reading

Changes in child custody orders can affect a parent’s financial obligations in a number of ways. In the recent New Jersey appellate case of Cowie v. Cowie, which was filed by our firm, a mother had already obtained sole custody of her children, and she made a motion to have the father’s child support obligation re-evaluated. But challenges arose when the new custody arrangement was deemed “temporary,” and the family court denied her motion. But the appellate court sided with the mom, noting that child support orders are designed to benefit the child, and that the change in custody warranted a fresh look at the father’s child support obligation. If your custody situation is changing, you should talk to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney to see if the new arrangement will have an impact on other aspects of the divorce and child custody agreements.

A divorced mother and father had joint custody of their children, with equal custodial and financial rights and obligations. But the father began to suffer from mental health issues, which began to strain the parents’ prior “50/50” custody arrangement. So a court intervened and awarded the mother “temporary sole legal and residential custody.” Because of a new supervised parenting schedule, the father no longer kept the kids overnight. Eventually, the father stopped seeing the children altogether. With the child-rearing responsibilities shifted solely to the mother, the mother’s expenses increased substantially.  Continue reading

Child support negotiation involves a number of issues that can complicate the process. For example, some divorced parents want to waive or reduce a child support agreement as part of a larger divorce settlement deal negotiated between the parents. New Jersey judges can intervene by altering the child support amount or changing the date on which child support terminates. In some cases, judges can even void an otherwise mutually acceptable agreement. These thorny problems can be resolved by working with an experienced New Jersey family law attorney.

Sometimes divorced parents want to negotiate an agreement that reduces or eliminates a child support obligation in exchange for some other benefit, but problems can emerge because New Jersey courts recognize that the right to child support belongs exclusively to the child. This fact doesn’t change even when both parents agree to modify or terminate a child support agreement. The New Jersey Appellate Court case of Faro v. Heyden held that “even an explicit waiver agreement cannot vitiate a child’s right to support.”  Continue reading

A recently published case establishes new rules for resolving preschool disputes between divorced parents. The court recognized that this particular issue had never been addressed before. An ordinary dispute between divorced parents can sometimes land you in an unexplored area of New Jersey law. It is important to hire a knowledgeable family law attorney to help navigate your parental rights disputes.

The case of Madison v. Davis involves parents who were married for four years before they were divorced. They have joint custody of a child, “L.D.”, with L.D.’s mother assigned as the primary residential custodian. Until recently, L.D. attended a preschool that was chosen by both parents. This school (referred to as “Preschool A”) violated state regulations by improperly allowing L.D.’s father to pick the child up from school when he was not authorized. L.D.’s mother promptly took the child out of “Preschool A” and enrolled her in “Preschool B.”  Continue reading

When grandparents are denied an opportunity to visit their grandchildren, a conflict is bound to arise. On one hand, a parent has a right to decide how his or her child will be raised. On the other hand, removing a grandparent from a child’s life could potentially harm the child. In New Jersey, we have a statute that governs the rights of parents and grandparents in these situations, and two important court rulings have clarified the way in which the statute is applied. If you are involved in a conflict over visitation, you should speak to a family law attorney who can explain how New Jersey’s statute applies to your case.

The New Jersey legislature passed a law to address problems that arise when a parent forbids a grandparent from interacting with a grandchild. The law sets out a process by which grandparents can apply for visitation rights and lists eight factors that must be considered in evaluating the grandparent’s application for visitation. They include the relationship of the grandparent with the child, how the grandparent gets along with the child’s parents or the person who has custody of the child, and the length of the period since when the grandparent has spent time with the child. Other factors extend to considering what impact the grandparent visitation may have on the relationship of the child with his or her parents or the individual with custody, the time-sharing arrangement of the parents, the motive of the grandparent in seeking visitation, any record of the grandparent mistreating the child, and any other information that may seem relevant to the court.

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A recently published New Jersey case held that a divorced parent is not always liable for a child’s college education. This case involved complex facts, and a number of criteria were considered in addition to the parent/child relationship. Divorce cases can be complex, especially when there are children involved in the equation. If you are considering a divorce or a dissolution of your civil union, you should talk to a New Jersey family law attorney who can help explain your case.

Mr. and Mrs. Black had been married for 17 years, and together they had three children. When Mr. and Mrs. Black were divorced from each other, the settlement included obligations to pay for their children’s college educations.  Although Mr. Black had repeatedly tried to establish a positive relationship with C.B., their oldest child, the child had  written  Mr. Black completely out of his life.  Therefore, Mr. Black no longer saw a reason to pay for C.B.’s college tuition. Continue reading

Many people in the midst of a divorce or imminent divorce proceeding  find themselves involved in a situation involving domestic violence with their spouse.  If you are granted a restraining order in New Jersey, you may wonder how that might effect the issue of custody in your divorce.  Or, if you are the defendant in a domestic violence case that now has a restraining order entered against you, you may wonder how this may affect the ultimate issue of custody of your minor children.

Unlike issues of support or equitable distribution involved in a typical New Jersey divorce case, the issue of custody of one’s children in many instances can prove to be the most important and difficult  to resolve.  The existence of a final restraining order raises other concerns that can impact the issue of custody of your minor children.

In New Jersey, a  trial court determines the issue of custody of minor children  based upon a standard known as  “the best interest of the child”.  To many, this can be a very illusive standard.  There is much case law in New Jersey that attempts to define this standard.

Once that determination as to the custody has been made by a court, or by consent of the parties if they can agree, it may still be changed in the future.  Certain factors must be met in order to succeed in changing custody. Generally speaking,  if the other parent voluntarily consents to the change,  it will in most instances, be permitted by the court. If the other parent does not agree to the proposed change in custody, an application (referred to as a “motion”) must be filed to commence the process in the family court in New Jersey.

An application to modify custody requires a two-step process.  The first step requires the moving party to show a “change of circumstances” as a threshold to allow discovery and an evidentiary hearing or trial.  The second step is the hearing or trial itself in which the court will apply the same standard that would have applied at the time of the original custody determination.  The paramount consideration in all child custody cases is to determine  “what is in the best interest of the child?. ”

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