When parents divorce, the importance of a carefully considered New Jersey parenting plan cannot be overstated. A Somerset child custody lawyer will help ensure that you’ve covered the basics according to the guidelines set forth in N.J.S.A.§ 9:2-4, the state’s parenting time guidelines. However, there may be additional provisions you’ll want to contemplate. These are things like grooming and screen time for which rules aren’t mandatory, but having guidelines in place can really help keep the peace and ensure more cooperative co-parenting where everyone’s on the same page.
As longtime New Jersey family law attorneys, the following are the most common issues we see cropping up and causing trouble when they aren’t agreed upon before dissolution.
Absolutely no trash-talking of your co-parent. We don’t expect everything will be peachy between co-parents (there are reasons you’re not together anymore, after all). Yet, your child deserves a positive relationship with each of you. In that vein, it can be a smart idea for both parties to agree they will not take any direct/indirect action that could estrange the child from their parent or tend to discredit, cause disrespect to, or diminish the quality of the relationship with the other parent. The goal is to ensure recourse if one parent attacks the other to the child in a way that could be harmful to the child or their relationship with their other parent. We see this most often when exes start dating new people. Getting out in front of this issue ahead of time can nip this in the bud, and potentially prevent parental alienation.
Grooming. Haircuts/hair dying are where we see the most division when it comes to kids’ grooming, but others include piercings or even tattoos. You may want to consider implementing some type of clause that would prevent the other parent from doing anything to majorly alter your child’s appearance without the written consent of the other. The goal here is to be sure the other doesn’t do something extreme without the other signing on.
No “stealing” parenting time. Although a parenting time agreement may spell out clearly which parent has the child at which times, it’s not uncommon for one parent to “steal” time from the other by scheduling extracurricular activities when it’s the other person’s parenting time. You can avoid this with the addition of a short clause simply indicating that neither parent can enroll the child in activities that might interfere with the other’s parenting time without that parent’s written consent. However, this should not be used as a method of preventing your children from participating in activities they otherwise would partake in, but for the divorce.
Capping screen time. From smartphones to iPads to gaming systems, screens are ubiquitous. The transition from one home to another can be made much smoother when there are similar rules in place for things like screens. The parenting plan can outline not just time limits but also who’s going to pay for and maintain these devices. Some parents are able to work this out on their own, but if you do so at the outset and get it in writing, it may help to avoid future disagreements.
Agree to mediation when you disagree. Disagreements are bound to arise. Heading back to Court to resolve them puts you inherently on opposite sides, and it can get pricey. A provision in the parenting agreement to first try resolving disputes through mediation can allow you both to approach it more as a team in the spirit of positive collaboration. Ultimately, it will save you money, and it’s better for your child if you can resolve disputes civilly.
Bottom line: Although the law stipulates that certain guidelines should be followed with respect to parenting plans, it’s pretty much understood that no two agreements are going to look exactly the same. The intention is for them to be customized. Our experienced team of family law attorneys in Somerset can work to help you draw up a plan that is fair, feasible and in your child’s best interests.
Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.