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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 New Jersey, a separation agreement is any legal document signed by both spouses outlining the terms of the separation. Subjects resolved in a separation agreement can include child support, child custody, debt allocation and asset distribution. Notarizing the document ensures its validity, since there is no such case-type in New Jersey that provides for a "legal separation." Spouses wanting child support during the separation period, however, must file a claim with the New Jersey probation department.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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