Category Archives: Custody Problems
By finally coming to a custody agreement, you’ve walked a delicate tightrope to balance the schedules and needs of everyone in your family. Perhaps you needed a court to intervene in your contentious relationship and settle everything. However, when circumstances change and something isn’t working, you might find yourself needing to change your parenting time arrangements. Read the rest of this entry
New Jersey parenting plans are designed to make life easier for the children involved. Child custody can be established by a judge if parents can’t agree, but it is always best if parents work together on the details. When parents agree on a child custody calendar, New Jersey family courts will honor their parenting plan unless it is not in the child’s best interest.
If a previous custody resolution process like an assessment or mediation yields no solution, the court may order a full child custody evaluation at the parents’ expense. Parents may agree to a single evaluator or each retain their own separately, and the court may also order a neutral evaluator.
Courts distinguish marital faults from misconduct that indicates an unfit parent. In other words, proof of a horrible spouse does not automatically deem that spouse an unfit parent, and seeking custody doesn’t have to eliminate parenting time. Although no one is legally required to parent perfectly, the court can decide that the dangerously imperfect are unfit.
How to handle a parent that signs a child up for activities that limit the other parent’s visitation in NJ
Its amazing how many activities children are in these days. There seems to be an endless supply of sports, clubs, meetings and other activities that keep children occupied constantly. This presents a problem when the custodial parent signs up the child for an activity that interferes with the other parent’s visitation. Of course, it is preferable if both parents communicate and agree on the child’s activities but this isn’t always the case.
In Wagner v. Wagner, 165 N.J. Super. 553 (App. Div. 1979), the Appellate Division was faced with a mother who enrolled the children in Hebrew school without the consent of the father. The problem was that the time of the Hebrew school interfered with the father’s parenting time. The Appellate Division found that alternatives had not been fully explored and remanded the matter for a plenary hearing. The Court noted that parenting time is so important that the court should hold a hearing to establish to fashion a plan of parenting time more commensurate with the child’s welfare.
Unfortunately, some people just accept the other parent interfering with their parenting time by signing the child up for a number of activities. Don’t let it happen to you. Call the team of tough, smart New Jersey parenting time lawyers today.
A contempt proceeding should be brought under R. 1:10-2 against the other parent for interfering with parenting time. Under R. 1:10-3, monetary sanctions are available. Often times, lawyers will file a motion to enforce litigant’s rights and simply ask the Court to verbally scold the other parent. I view these case as dealing with any other bully. The best way to get a bully to back down is to stand up for yourself and punch them in the mouth. Clearly, assaulting the other parent is not advisable but standing up for yourself in court and using the court to deliver a serious blow to them will often get them to back down.
Now I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why the other side will not listen to any court order. In fact, I find it odd that people would call a lawyer only to tell the lawyer that the other side cannot be defeated. Why call the lawyer in the first place? Quite often, the prospective client has handled the case on their own or did not have an aggressive lawyer in the past. I cannot think of any case that our firm has handled where we could not help our client get parenting time unless the parent was involved with DYFS. Even with serious DYFS allegations, we can almost always get the client some visitation.
Thus, if you want to enforce your parenting time and teach the other side that you will not back down, speak to one of our tough, smart lawyers about filing a motion to hold the other parent in contempt.
I’m always amazed how people that are divorced or separated seem to rush right into a new relationship. The concern is that this relationship will not last although the parent will likely argue that this time is different. The other parent will likely have a number of concerns. The first concern by the other parent is that this parent will have a number of relationships and if the child is exposed to all of these people, the child will harmed psychologically. The other concern is that the person poses a danger to the child. When the parent has a new girlfriend, the most common “danger” is smoking or substance abuse. If the parent has a new boyfriend, the most common “danger” is physical abuse or substance abuse, possibly based upon the boyfriend’s past record. I have seen a number of women clients meet a guy and move him into the house without knowing much about him. All of them have told me that they know about his background and that they trust him. Of course, as the case goes on, more of the boyfriend’s background comes out and often times, the parties break up as a result.
I’m not here to tell people who to date but rushing into a relationship and bringing the new paramour around the child or even worse, moving that paramour in, could cause big problems. Even if you are 100% convinced that the child will not be harmed in anyway, you have to figure out how the other parent will handle this issue. In the examples I have provided, these women spent a ton of money to fight over a new paramour who left them before the case was over. Thus, if the other parent will give you a big problem, you have to really figure out whether its worth it to fight over this new paramour who may wind up leaving you when things get difficult. Remember, I’m sure you had no plans on breaking up with the other parent and yet, you did. Thus, while you may indeed stay with this new paramour forever, the odds are against it. Either way, I think the money spent on lawyers fighting over this issue is better spent on a college fund.
This of course doesn’t mean that the new paramour has to stay away forever. Instead, take baby steps when you introduce the new paramour to the child and try to get the input from the other parent. After all, they will likely be in the same position at some point.
With all the dead beat parents out there, you’d think that custodial parents everywhere would welcome involvement from the other parent. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, custody battles make up a huge portion of the court cases in New Jersey. Our team of custody lawyers have seen huge custody and visitation battles in countless cases through the entire state. One common scenario that comes up is when a parent, often (but not always) the father, seeks to reinstate parenting time after years of not having any. The reasons vary, but often it involves the custodial parent thwarting visitation.
Like many problems, prevention is the best medicine. I cannot remember a case where we could not help a client get visitation if the parent did not have any serious problems such as substance abuse allegations or physical abuse. In fact, even with serious substance abuse allegations, we have still been able to get our clients good parenting time schedules under the circumstances. Often times, it seems that people do not hire a lawyer or they hire a lawyer that does nothing. Either way, they get discouraged and years go by without any real contact with the child. It sometimes take a lot of hard work by a very aggressive attorney to hold the other side’s feet to the fire to enforce visitation. Criminal charges and motions are your best bet. Court orders must have teeth to them and if you don’t stop fighting, the court will almost always back you up. Nothing upsets the court more than having a party disregard its orders. I don’t want to hear how difficult the other side is or what a pain their attorney is. We’ve seen it all and we’ve battled back.
If you are unfortunately in a situation where you have had little to no contact with your children in quite some time, the good news is that you can get back on track if you are willing to take baby steps. You cannot think that you will suddenly go from having no contact to an overnight weekend in a day. That just doesn’t happen. You will need to get reintroduced to the child and depending on the child’s age and the amount of time without contact with the child, your contact may even need to be supervised. This is because you don’t know how the child is going to react. The child may freak out and someone familiar needs to be there to calm the child down. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all initial contact will be supervised; its just one of many options.
The court order should work like a ladder. Either you will return to court after a few weeks to discuss the progress or the court order will have a self executing schedule of increasing parenting time eventually leading up to a normal visitation schedule. Of course, this is easier said than done and it will often depend on what type of fight is put up by the other side. If you want to get your visitation back, call our team of tough, smart lawyers today and allow us to fight for you!
Smoking in the house is a common issue, especially with FD docket cases. Its rare that one parent starts smoking after the divorce. Thus, either or both parent likely smoked before the divorce and therefore, it would be rare that this would suddenly become an issue post-divorce. However, it does become an issue when a parent moves in with someone such as a paramour or a family member who does smoke.
Courts have clearly found that smoking around the child causes harm and as a result, a smokey house may play a big part in the court’s decision making. There is case law on this issue, specifically Unger v. Unger, 274, N.J. Super (Ch Div 1994). In that case, the father complained that the mother was smoking around the children to the point where one child developed a cough. This was despite a consent order where the mother agreed not to smoke around the child. At the end of the trial, the judge entered an order that the mother could not smoke in the house within 10 hours of the children being at the house. Of course, the house will still smell like smoke. Thus, some judges may force the parent to smoke outside.
Courts have distinguished between marital fault and misconduct that would lead a court to find that a parent is unfit. This means that proving that a parent was a horrible spouse does not mean that the court will also found that the parent is unfit. Of course, there is a difference between seeking custody versus eliminating parenting time. To eliminate parenting time, some courts take the view that children are only entitled to D- parents, not A+ parents. However, when it comes to custody, the court will generally determine which parent is better.
Furthermore, all cases are fact sensitive. So, arguing that a parent engaged in adultery may have absolutely no impact on a custody or parenting time award in New Jersey. However, if one of the parents is bringing the child around the new paramour, the court may side with the other parent as courts do not like to have children be subject to new paramours, especially right after the parents separated or divorced.