When a family faces divorce or a separation, everyone in the family is affected by the change. Often, these major changes impact the lives of the children involved. Though a couple may be working out their own differences, parents will have to address topics that affect their children. These issues will often include child support and child custody. Even if parents use mediation or collaborative law to agree to child support terms or a child custody arrangement, a New Jersey judge will be obligated to scrutinize their agreement in order to act according to the child’s best interests. Courts will never allow an agreement between parents to pass without review. Other issues that impact children and parents include relocation, parental alienation, and post-judgment modifications. If you are a parent facing divorce, you have a lot to consider related to your children. If you need legal advice or passionate representation, contact The Mark Law Firm, LLC to assist you through your matter.
Parents are legally obligated to support their children in New Jersey. Recently, New Jersey changed the law to relinquish parents of their obligation to make child support payments when the child turns 19. In some cases, the payments will end upon the child’s 23rd birthday. When parents face divorce, the court is obligated to establish a support structure that reasonably continues the quality of life the child is accustomed to that is fair and just to the parents.
The New Jersey child support guidelines determine the child support structure that is best for the child. With these guidelines, courts will take into consideration many other factors related to both the children and the parents.
When courts review factors related to the parents, they will review the financial status of each party, the child custody structure, each party’s earning capacity, the work history of each parent, and the income, debts, and assets of the family. When following a fair and just child support structure, parenting time will always have a major impact on who pays what percentage of the support.
When courts review factors related to the children, there are many things to consider. They will review the child’s education, the cost for providing for the child, the child’s age and health, any special needs, and any other factors that might impact the child support structure.
Shared parenting guidelines can be applied to a child custody structure where a child spends 2 or more nights per week or over 104 nights per year with the non-custodial parent. These are fortunate cases where parents are able to work together to lessen the impact of the divorce and allow for fruitful parental relationships to continue.
Child support can extend beyond the 19th birthday. If the child is a full-time student or has a legal disability, the parent may be obligated to make payments until the child is 23. In order for parents to terminate child support, one of them must file a declaration of emancipation with the local court after a child turns 19 or becomes financially independent. A judge will decide on the matter.
Parents who are going through a divorce with children will have to address the topic of child custody. Both parents have worked hard to establish a consistent and ongoing familial relationship with their children and the idea that they would not spend every night with their child is too much for some. When discussing child custody, parents should educate themselves on the different child custody structures they may face.
Rarely, courts have found a parent to be “unfit” to be a guardian. They are a risk to their children because of a variety of reasons. When a court deems a parent unfit, they may reward the other parent with sole custody. Sole custody offers the custodial parent physical and legal custody. Though a sole custody arrangement allows no overnights to the unfit parent, NJ courts believe that the parent deserves the chance to continue to prove themselves through limited visitation rights, often supervised. A court may revisit the case at the parents’ request in order to change the structure according to the rehabilitation of the non-custodial parent.
Most cases will address physical and legal custody and simply knowing the difference will help parents who have to address this issue during divorce. Physical custody refers to the parent that spends more time with the child. Most families have a weekday and a weekend parenting structure. There are many factors that determine who gets physical custody, including which parent lives in the marital house and can offer the child consistency with school.
In some fortunate cases, a shared parenting structure allows for a child to spend an even amount of time with his or her parents. A shared parenting structure is a great way to lessen the impact of the divorce. It takes an amazing amount of cooperation and generally both parents must live in the same town. Even if a parent loses physical custody, they should fight for legal custody.
Legal custody refers to who has the ability to make the important decisions related to the children. When clients face custody issues, legal custody is the most important factors. When one has legal custody, they get to decide on factors, including:
When a parent loses legal custody, their parental relationship is drastically diminished. They will lose the ability to decide on matters integral to their child’s life and act more as an uncle. When it works, parents should consider using mediation or collaborative law in order to work through this issue and better the lives of the child. Though a court will have the last word, coming to a common ground through cooperation can mean wonders for the child involved.
Relocation is a tough topic for parents. The idea that a child could move far enough away that they would not have consistent access can be emotional. In some cases, it may be in the best interests of the child. In other cases, a parent wants to move in order to hurt the other. A court will always have the last word on the matter. Courts will always decide in the best interests of the child. A court will allow the relocation only if the move will better the child. When reviewing factors related to the child, courts will consider:
The court will also consider the impact of the move on the parents if the relocation was permitted. Some of these considerations include:
In all relocation cases, the court will always decide on the case with the child’s best interests in mind. If you are considering relocation or oppose the relocation of your divorced spouse and your child, you have a lot to consider and you need an effective attorney to advocate on your behalf.
Divorces can be highly emotional. They shake up the foundation of the whole family. Child custody is one of the most heated topics of divorce. It is hard for parents to share their time and cooperate for their children. Unfortunately, the pain of divorce and other issues can lead to a parent using their child as a pawn for their own purposes. In some very sad cases, a parent will actively try and destroy a positive relationship between the child and the other spouse in order to win a certain custody structure or make it almost impossible for the other parent to continue a fruitful relationship with their child. This is called parental alienation. Some professionals consider this child abuse and abusive behavior. Most parental alienation cases have two parts to consider; the parent’s role in programming the child and the child’s role in the destruction of the relationship.
Signs of parental alienation can manifest in a variety of ways. A child may become stressed or aggressive towards an established, bonded parental relationship. Other time, larger gestures demonstrate parental alienation. A child may become violent towards a parent that comes to visit. In the worst cases, a child may lie about physical or sexual abuse at the request of the alienating parent.
Parental alienation is controversial. Some professionals push for the medical community to acknowledge parental alienation as a valid mental disorder called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Many legal and medical professionals write articles in scholastic journals in support of the disorder. Unfortunately, to this day, there is nothing listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association still do not recognize any disorder related to parental alienation.
Unfortunately, when people go to a judge with claims of parental alienation, they have an uphill battle. Courts decide matters on facts and without a diagnosed disorder, they may not allow expert testimony in a court case. Judges have the discretion to hear evidence in support of the parental alienation, but it becomes hard for a court to establish.
When a divorce is finalized and all issues addressed, legal matters may not always be over. In some cases, a couple may need the court’s intervention after a case is over. A court cannot be reasonably expected to judge matters with the future in mind. If you or your spouse’s circumstances have drastically changed, you have the right to request a modification to child support, child custody, alimony, and division of assets. One needs to establish an ongoing and unforeseen change in circumstances that would convince a court to modify the order. If you need assistance with post-judgment modifications, contact The Mark Law Firm, LLC.
The Mark Law Firm, LLC understands that child and parenting issues are complicated and emotional issues. Divorces can impact the whole family and most families work to limit the effect on the children. If you are involved in a child and parenting legal matter, The Mark Law Firm, LLC is here to serve. Our compassionate attorneys are ready to review your family law case and guide you through your options. If you have a need for our legal services, don’t hesitate to call us.