Custody and Parenting Time Challenges

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Law Office of Geraldene Sherr Duswalt

Scotch Plains, NJ

Practice Areas

Bankruptcy, Child Custody, Child Support, Divorce

Navigating child custody in New Jersey is often the most stressful part of a divorce. It is often difficult for one or both parents to realize that they will not have their child or children with them at all times. Navigating how to divide the time can be very challenging.

Physical custody is just that: actual custody of the child. Traditionally, one parent has primary physical custody of the child (which means that parent has the child for a majority of the time), with the other parent having parenting time with the children (i.e. every other weekend). It’s becoming more common, however, for parents to share physical custody, meaning they divide time with the child relatively equally so long as that schedule is in the child’s best interests. The trend in New Jersey is toward a shared or 50/50 parenting plan. The statutes and case law is gender neutral, neither the mother nor the father has an advantage. While this does not work in all cases, if the parents live close and are willing to work with each other this can be the best result. The courts always look to the best interest of the children (which may not always be best for the parents). We work with our clients to determine what is best for the children and to minimize conflict during this taxing process. The less conflict between the parents, the better the children are able to handle the divorce.

Separation and divorce can impact your relationship with your children. The quantity and quality of time your children spend with each parent is important for a healthy post-separation and post-divorce relationship. I will work with you to ensure your children are protected and their best interests are met. It is often painful for a parent to realize that no matter what the custody arrangement is, they will no longer have their child with them all of the time or for all of the holidays. I can help navigate this difficult period.

I will work with you to design a specific parenting plan that defines a clear schedule of the time children are to be in the care of each parent. The plan also addresses each parent's rights to be part of their children's lives, attend their school and sports events, make decisions for them relating to education, healthcare, religious upbringing and financial support. I encourage compromise, communication and cooperation. However, if one parent refuses, then I will fight for your right to be part of your child's life. I am prepared to seek court intervention when the other party does not cooperate.

If the parties cannot agree on a custody and parenting plan, the court may appoint a custody expert. There are various evaluations a court could require a parent to undergo when determining a custody and parenting time arrangement of a child, which will include a psychological evaluation of a parent, and the children to recommend a plan that would be in the child's best interest. In other circumstances where there are concerns about a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse, a parent may be required to undergo an alcohol and substance abuse evaluation and/or risk assessment. Other circumstance may require a parent to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation.

One important thing to remember is that the statues and case law is gender neutral, so neither the mother nor the father has any inherent advantage, the standard is always the best interest of the child.

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