NJ Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements

Child Custody & Visitation Vary by Case

While every New Jersey divorce action that involves children will have to come to a conclusion with respect to a custody and visitation arrangement, the arrangement chosen for any particular divorce action is chosen according to the facts and circumstances surrounding that particular case.

Today it is common for both parents to work outside the home. It also is common for one or both parents to attend school at night in addition to their work schedules. New Jersey family law courts are therefore called upon to develop elaborate and creative custody and visitation plans for the parties involved.

How Courts Determine Child Custody & Visitation Arrangements

NJ Child Support LawyersIf parties are unable to come to an agreement as it relates to custody and parenting time issues, the court will first refer the parties to custody and parenting time mediation.  Often times the mediation sessions take place at the County Courthouse with a trained probation officer.

In the event that such custody and parenting time mediation is successful, the probation officer prepares an agreement that is subsequently forwarded to the parties’ attorneys.  Once executed by the parties, the agreement will be submitted to the court for filing, thereby resolving the custody and parenting time issues.

Child Custody Evaluation May be Ordered

If the mediation is not successful, the Court will order that the parties retain an expert, such as a forensic psychologist, who will perform a custody evaluation.  Child custody evaluations are quite expensive and take months to complete.  A forensic custody evaluation requires that the parties undergo psychological testing, as well as comprehensive interviews with the forensic psychologist.

Depending on the age of the child or children, often the child will be interviewed by the forensic psychologist.  Additionally, the forensic psychologist will request that the child or children come to the psychologist’s office with each parent on separate occasions wherein the evaluator will observe the child or children and then subsequently make a recommendation as to which parent should be the primary caregiver for the child and what parenting time arraignment would be optimal.

After a court-appointed custody evaluator performs an evaluation, the party who loses the custody or parenting time dispute will usually choose to retain their own expert psychologist to perform an additional evaluation. This subsequent evaluation may be used at trial to rebut the court-appointed psychological expert.  As one can imagine, the cost associated with these types of litigated custody proceedings can be staggering.  It is therefore typically in the family’s best interest to resolve any and all custody and parenting time issues through agreement, rather than expensive and protracted litigation.

Child’s Best Interests is the #1 Consideration

Divorcing parties generally have wide latitude with respect to the ultimate arrangement chosen. It is their lives that are directly affected by the chosen custody arrangement and their schedules in some sense dictate what is possible in terms of custody and visitation. Where the parties can reach agreement on their own, a custody and visitation plan can be submitted to the court for approval.

New Jersey family law courts will give deference to a custody and visitation plan submitted by the parties. The courts will also consider, as its main criterion for ratifying any such arrangement, the best interests of the child or children involved. Parents of minor or children in New Jersey have a nondelegable responsibility to care for their children.

While courts will give deference to parents’ schedules with respect to schooling and other pursuits when considering custody and visitation arrangements, courts will consider them as they relate to the child or children affected by the custody and visitation arrangement.

Common NJ Child Custody Arrangements

There are endless possibilities that can be utilized to resolve  child custody and visitation issues.  More and more frequently, parties are using a nesting arrangement, wherein the parties will retain the former marital residence on a post-divorce basis and the parents will alternate spending time with the children born of the marriage in that residence.  Obviously, in order for such an arrangement to be successful, the parties must have a very good relationship and must be able to co-parent effectively.

If, in fact, the parties are able to put the children’s interests above all else, this type of arrangement may be beneficial in that the children will not require to relocate to two different residences on a post-divorce basis.  Often times one party may wish to have a shared custody arrangement, wherein both parties will be able to enjoy significant parenting time with the children.

However, both parents may have concerns relative to the children’s daily routines being disrupted during the school year. Some parents find having the children go back and forth between the parent’s separate residences during the school year is disruptive and adversely affects the children’s ability to learn while school is in session.  In order to address this, the parent who does not have the children the majority of the time will usually get increased parenting time over summer break, as well as having additional time during the weekends and various school holidays and breaks.

It is strongly recommended that the parties contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss the various options that are available to resolve custody and visitation disputes.  An experienced attorney will be able to provide guidance to the divorcing parent as to how to best address the children’s needs on a post-divorce basis.

Villani & DeLuca – NJ Family Law Attorneys

If you are about to go through a divorce in New Jersey and you have a child, the most important decisions you will make with respect to your divorce will concern custody and visitation. Be sure to consult a competent attorney experienced in New Jersey family law matters to help you craft the best custody and visitation arrangement for your child, and for you. Contact an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. by calling 732-965-3350. Our office represents divorcing parties throughout Ocean County and Monmouth County and offer free consultations.