At South Jersey Divorce Solutions, the philosophy is Divorce Options, Divorce Solutions. Solutions are critical when it comes to the most important people in a divorce – your children. Each family is unique and requires an individualized custody plan. In coming up with a solution, we focus on what works best for your family and not on what is easy or what everyone else does.
Types of Custody
There are two different types of custody – physical and legal. Parents can share physical, legal or both or one parent may have sole custody. The type of custody is dependent on the needs of the family as well as the ability for the couple to co-parent and communicate.
Legal Custody – This is the decision-making. Legal custody involves the major decisions with regards to the care and upbringing of a child such as medical, educational and religious issues.
Physical Custody – This is where the child resides. Parents may be designated as Parent of Primary Residence or Parent of Alternate Residence.
Shared Custody – Some couples are able to develop a parenting plan where they share physical and legal custody equally(50/50).
Each couple’s parenting plan is different and depends on the best interest of the children. A well developed parenting plan will allow the parents to have clearly defined roles and schedules to address their parenting of their children.
What Is Included In A Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans can include as much or as little information as a couple needs to help them to successfully co-parent. In developing a well thought-out plan, parents are less likely to have conflicts or confusion as to what is expected. Creating a detailed plan also allows the children to have greater certainty as to when they will see each of their parents. The typical parenting plan may include:
- Determination of Custody (Legal, Physical, Shared or Sole)
- Schedule for each parent’s time with the children
- Holiday Schedule
- Vacation Schedule
- Camp and Daycare
- Care and Notification in event of Illness
- Extra-Curricular Activities
- And additional information as needed.
What if Parents Cannot Agree To A Parenting Plan?
Of course, it is best if you and your child’s other parent can work out a plan that is right for you and your family. The reality is not every couple is able to agree to custody and parenting of their children. Before the matter goes before the judge, the Court will require a couple to see if they can resolve the issues of custody and parenting time with the assistance of a mediator. If the couple is unable to resolve all of the outstanding issues through mediation, the court will then schedule a hearing or trial.
Following the hearing/trial, the Court will create a parenting plan for the couple. Courts will consider the best interests of the child regarding his/her needs and well-being in setting the order determining custody and parenting time. In making the decision, a judge will consider the factors listed within N.J.S.A 9:2-4(c). These include:
- The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate with one another regarding the child.
- The willingness of each parent to accept custody.
- Whether a parent has prevented the other parent from having parenting time, except in cases where there is substantiated abuse.
- The relationship of the child has with his/her parents and siblings.
- The history of domestic violence (if any).
- The safety of the child from physical abuse.
- The safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.
- If the child is of old enough and mature enough to make an intelligent decision, the preference of the child.
- The home(s) of each of the parents.
- The educational needs of the child and the ability of the parents to meet those needs.
- The fitness of each parent.
- The location/proximity of the parents’ homes to one another.
- The extent of time the child spent before the divorce or separation with each parent.
- Each parent’s employment responsibilities.
- The age and number of children.
After applying all of the factors listed above, the judge will make a determination of custody and parenting time for the children. This will be set out in an order which will be binding on all of the parties.
An experienced family lawyer can help you to create a parenting plan that makes sense for you and your family. Melissa Fecak, Esq. of South Jersey Divorce Solutions has experience in helping individuals and couples create parenting plans that fit their needs and goals, being mindful of the best interests of the children. If you would like to discuss custody and parenting plans, contact the office to schedule an appointment.