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New Jersey Child Custody/Parenting Plan
It is New Jersey's public policy to assure that minor children have frequent and continuous contact with both parents after the divorce. In any custody proceeding, the court will treat the rights of both parents equally.
Child custody is comprised of legal and physical custody. Legal custody relates to a parent's authority and responsibility for making major decisions regarding the child's health, education and welfare. Physical or residential custody relates to where the children live. The primary standard of how the courts determine custody and parenting schedules is the "best interests of the child." This standard is designed to protect the safety, happiness, physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.
Generally, custody arrangements fall into one of three categories: sole custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody. Sole custody awards both the legal and physical custody to one spouse. Joint legal custody provides that both spouses have joint responsibility for all major decisions regarding the child's health, welfare and education. However, in a joint custody case, the court will usually designate one parent as the child's principal residence and determine a parenting plan for the other parent. Joint physical custody cases are really only feasible when the divorced spouses can reasonably cooperate with each other.
A court is required to examine the following criteria in determining the child's best interests:
In addition, the court must examine the factors set forth in the following N.J.S.A. 9:2-4:
In New Jersey the most common form of custody is joint legal custody, and the wife/spouse has residential custody. It is always advisable to work out a reasonable shared parenting plan. Constant custody hearings and court appearances are a great way to waste money on legal fees, upset the children, and basically ruin your life. Remember, the children belong to both parents. Moreover, most counties now refer custody matters to mediation before any hearings are held. In my experience mediation is a great way to solve custody issues in a fair, inexpensive, and speedy manner.
In order for permanent alimony to be awarded in New Jersey, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and one spouse must have become economically dependent on the other. This type of alimony allows the obligee to maintain the lifestyle to which he or she has become accustomed for the duration of the obligor's lifetime (unless the obligee remarries).
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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