In a New Jersey divorce involving children, there are two major aspects of custody that must be resolved. The first being legal custody. In New Jersey joint legal custody is awarded by the courts the vast majority of the time. Joint legal custody means that both parents have an equal say in all major decisions involving the children such as where they go to school, whether they undergo certain medical procedures, etc.
More often than not, the major custody issues that need to be addressed during a divorce proceeding involve the second type of custody, i.e., residential custody. Residential custody is a legal term that defines where the children will reside. There are various types of residential custody, couples can employ a shared residential custodial arrangement wherein the children split time between both parent residences once the divorce is finalized. Often the division of how to divide time with the children is one of the most contentious issues in the divorce proceeding. Some parents believe that the children should not be disrupted by switching residences during the school week during the school year. Custody is determined by the courts undertaking an analysis of what type of custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests.
Generally, courts operate under the presumption that it is best for the child if both parents share in all of the responsibility associated with raising the child. If the Judge feels as though the parents have a civil, respectful relationship he or she may find that a joint physical custody arrangement would be in the child’s best interests.
Often times the most cost-effective way in which to resolve custody disputes is through the mediation process. In custody mediation the parties meet with an agreed upon mediator and discuss how best to resolve their differences. An impartial experienced mediator can be effective in crafting creative solutions to all questions involving custody.
Sometimes however, mediation does not work, in those unfortunate instances the court will be called upon to weigh in on how the time-sharing arrangements concerning the children should be handled. To assist the court in rendering this determination, lawyers may want their respective clients to retain the services of a custody evaluator.
A custody evaluator is a trained psychologist who will perform a comprehensive evaluation and render an opinion as to what type of custodial arrangement should be implemented. That opinion can be presented to the court at the time of the divorce trial. Sometimes the parties and their attorneys may agree on a joint custody evaluator who will perform the evaluation for both parties. Utilizing a joint expert to assist with resolving custody disputes is a lot less expensive than having each party retaining their own custody experts. If each expert comes down with a different opinion as to what type of custody arrangement should be utilized the Judge will be called upon to decide which expert’s opinion should be given more weight.
If you are going through a divorce and you have children, it is imperative that you discuss all issues pertaining to the children at the onset of your divorce proceeding. There are many issues that need to be resolved such as physical custody, time sharing on holidays and birthdays, calculating child support, allocating parenting time over the summers and vacations from school, the payment of expenses for the children when they get older such as car insurance costs, college costs, etc.
The divorce lawyers at Villani and DeLuca have over 70 plus years of aggregate experience in addressing all types of custody issues. We also offer free consultations wherein we will discuss with you what type of custodial arrangements you can expect given your particular set of circumstances. Call today for your initial free consultation.