New Year’s Resolutions For New Jersey Parents Who Share Joint Custody
January is a time for resolutions. Many take the opportunity of a new year to set goals for the future and make plans for those goals to become reality. For New Jersey parents who share joint custody of their children, January can also be a time to reevaluate co-parenting strategies.
Shared custody is a difficult endeavor that can dredge up many painful emotions for parents and children alike. By stepping back to objectively consider how co-parenting can be improved, parents can work together to make joint custody better for their children. A New Jersey child custody attorney can help parents evaluate their custody arrangements, identify problem areas, and determine the best way to improve the situation for the entire family.
The Flexibility of New Jersey Child Custody Law
Like other states, New Jersey has enacted child custody laws that allow judges wide discretion to make whatever orders are in the best interest of the children. Section 9:2-4 of the New Jersey Code allows judges to order joint custody, sole custody or any other custody arrangements are determined to be in the best interest of the child. Judges also have discretion in arranging for physical custody via visitation or parenting time orders. Legal custody (the right to make decisions about a child’s education, medical care, religious upbringing, and other important decisions) can also be shaped by the specific needs of an individual child or family.
Keep in mind though: Judges do not always have to make joint custody orders. Many parents are capable of negotiating parenting time, legal decisions, and other important custody decisions between themselves. A judge need only intervene if a parent chooses to submit custody issues to the court. This can occur in divorce proceedings, or in a subsequent petition to the court to modify the existing custody arrangements. If parents can negotiate custody arrangements on their own, they, too, are able to be creative in making flexible arrangements that serve the needs of the entire family. Many parents do this with the guidance of the statutory directive to act in the best interests of the children.
Even if you have made your own arrangement, it’s often advisable to have an experienced child custody lawyer in Middlesex County review your plan. The process need not be contentious whatsoever, but it still helps ensure the arrangements are fair.
Common Problem Areas
Some internally-organized custody arrangements work at the time they are made, but there is no guarantee they will serve a family’s needs in the future.
Children’s and families’ needs evolve with the passage of time. Teenagers generally want more freedom, and flexibility to participate in extracurricular activities and social events. Parents, too, may find that their abilities and demands change over time.
For many former couples, the stress of being forced to work together long-term takes a toll. It can be difficult to see a former partner at parenting exchanges, especially if a child is emotional or upset by the transition. When these types of problems arise, it is important for parents to step back and consider possible solutions. A family law attorney can help.
Transitions between parents can be a common source of conflict. Young children are easily upset by the change in household, and anger or conflict between the parents can exacerbate these emotions.
If parents find it difficult to see one another at exchanges, it can be helpful to have a neutral third party transition the children between the houses. An aunt, uncle or grandparent can be a familiar face which provides consistency and reassurance during a difficult event. Child care facilities and school can also be a useful location for neutral exchanges. When one parent drops off and another picks up, the parents need not see each other at all. Or, if one parent isn’t comfortable having the other at his or her house, a neutral location - such as a park, library, playground, or fast food restaurant - may be a more suitable site at which to exchange the children.
It is necessary to identify exactly what aspect of transitions is troubling to the children to find the solution that will best address the problem.
This is just one example of a common co-parenting problem that can be addressed with effective custody arrangements. Taking time at the start of the new year to identify which problem areas you face will put you on the road to carving out workable solutions for the rest of 2018. A Middlesex County child custody attorney can help parents sharing joint custody address co-parenting issues to create a less contentious family environment for their children.
If you are struggling with a New Jersey child custody issue, contact the Middlesex County child custody attorneys at Rozin-Golinder Law LLC by calling (732) 810-0034.
Additional Resources: Coming Home: Custody Transition Do’s and Don’ts, by Kate Chapman, This Life in Progress, February 16, 2017.
More Blog Entries: At What Age Can a Child Choose Who to Live With in NJ?, September 6, 2017, New Jersey Family Law Attorney Blog