Divorce is a very sad time, especially when children are involved. You may feel scared, isolated, and unsettled. You may have heard child custody can be a battle and you don’t want it to affect your children’s lives. If you have concerns, you are certainly not alone. Here is some information to ease your child custody concerns.
When going through a divorce with children, the first issue you will need to resolve is child custody. Child support in New Jersey is determined by child custody; and all other expenses not included in child support payments will, too, depend to some degree on the custody arrangement. Start with the question of where your children will live—with whom, and for what days each week, month, or year—and work outward from there.
Child Custody Concerns
New Jersey law recognizes two types of child custody:
Legal Custody: This pertains to a parent’s access to school and medical records. New Jersey precedent prefers joint legal custody in all but extreme cases—for example, when there has been a history of child abuse.
Physical Custody: This pertains to where the children will live. While it’s possible to have a 50/50 physical custody arrangement, you must think hard about the feasibility of this option: complicating factors include the proximity of both parents’ residences, career obligations, etc. Generally, in New Jersey there will be one “parent of primary residence”—the “custodial parent”—and one “parent of alternate residence,” allotted a certain amount of time with the children. There are countless ways to split this time up, accounting for holidays, summers, weekends, weekday dinners, and travel. While you have legitimate desires to be acknowledged in these decisions, it’s important here, as with all other decisions directly pertaining to the children, to put their interests first.
Concerns with Negotiation
When negotiating child custody, you need to think far into the future and be sure to bring up every concern. With your spouse, you should discuss:
- Your schedules and availability.
- Your expectations for the child’s religious upbringing and education.
- Your ideas for dividing weekends, holidays, and summers.
- Depending on your situation, you may also want to discuss any plans to move out of the area or out of state.
The Benefits of Mediation over Litigation
If you go to trial, a judge will decide what’s best. That means a judge could be deciding what’s best for your children – and you’d have to abide by that decision. No one knows your children better than you and your spouse do. That means the question of child custody is often best suited to mediation. Can you and your spouse work together, with your attorneys, toward decisions that put your children’s interests first? How will you handle holidays, birthdays, and other milestones? Where will they go to school and where will they live?
If you need these questions answered, you will want an attorney who is as dedicated to you as you are to your children. Contact New Jersey Divorce Attorney Tanya Freeman.