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COMPREHENSIVE LOOK AT A PARENTING PLAN

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A parenting plan is undoubtedly one of the most emotional parts of working toward a full Marital Settlement Agreement. Many parents may fear that their time will be unfairly restricted. Knowing what to expect before beginning to develop a plan will ease stress and help lead to a fair agreement that is in the best interest of the children and fair to each parent.

TYPE OF CUSTODY AND REASON FOR SELECTION

parenting planThe first major decision to be made when entering into a parenting plan is the type of custody. Naturally, most parents would like as much time as possible with their children while still ensuring they have liberal access to the other parent. Types of custody include: sole legal and physical custody, joint legal and physical custody, joint legal custody with one parent designated the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the other the Parent of Alternative Residence (PAR).

Before discussing this with your spouse or attorney it is wise to take some time to gather your thoughts and set your expectations. What is the current parenting situation? Has one parent been the primary caregiver? How will your schedule (and your spouse’s) change after the divorce? What are the children’s expectations?

Once you have answered these types of questions, set real expectations. For example, if both parents have been equally involved in parenting thus far, joint legal and physical custody is a likely outcome. Give yourself an idea of what you are willing to compromise on. When you feel ready, discuss your expectations with your spouse and mediator or attorney. You and your spouse may be on the same page, and if not your divorce mediator or attorney will guide you through the process of settlement.

RESIDENTIAL SCHEDULE, HOLIDAYS, AND VACATIONS parenting time schedule

This schedule is necessary to determine where the children will reside each day of the year, what contact they will have with each parent, and how the pick up and drop off will work. A typical residential schedule will set forth the parenting time of the PAR, which may include alternate weekends and weekly dinner visits. It is important to agree upon exact start and end times for the parenting time in the plan; however, these times can be changed upon verbal or written agreement of both parents. In the event that one parent is not adhering to the agreement, the executed parenting plan will be followed.

Other issues to be addressed include school and social events, activities, camps, sporting and extracurricular events, transportation, and delays in pick up and drop off. In this section you may also address the use of childcare and babysitters during the custodial parenting time and how to proceed with introducing the child to a serious significant other.

Regardless of the custody arrangement, children should have liberal access to both parents via telephone or video calls when appropriate. Decide upon what time and how often calls may be allowed.

HOLIDAYS

The comprehensive parenting plan will also set forth the detailed schedule for Holidays. Each parent will have odd or even years to spend with the child for each holiday, school break, and the child’s birthday. This can be negotiated with your spouse if you wish to have parenting time every year on a certain holiday. Holidays must be defined with start and end times; for instance, Christmas Eve may be defined as 4pm to noon on Christmas day. Make sure to tell your mediator or attorney about all the holidays you celebrate.

VACATIONS

The parenting plan will usually discuss the vacation time each parent is entitled to. The allotted vacation time is personal to each parent. The parenting plan will lay out details such as informing one another of itineraries, phone contact, and obtaining the child’s passport. With the consent of both parties’ additional vacation time may be taken even after the agreement is in effect.

MEDICAL AND SCHOOL RECORDS

Unless otherwise agreed upon, the parenting plan will entitle both parents to all medical and school information. This includes any information, documents, and communication from the child’s pediatrician, general physician, dentist, specialist, counselor, consultant attending the child, or reports or communication from any teacher or school giving instruction to the child.

DECISION MAKING

parenting time This is usually broken down into two categories: day-to-day and major decisions. It is highly likely that your parenting plan will give the authority of day-to-day decisions to the parent with whom the child is residing that day. Major decisions such as those involving health, education, religion, and other important matters will almost always require consulting with one another in a joint custody arrangement, regardless of whether one parent has been given the right to make the final decision if an agreement cannot be made. The procedure for emergency decisions should also be discussed to minimize future conflict.

Familiarizing yourself with what a parenting plan entails will help you move through the divorce mediation or litigation journey with less stress. Children are the most important part of any divorce and their best interests should always be put first.

LAWS ON CHILD RELOCATION IN NEW JERSEY

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nj child relocation lawsDuring or after divorce parents often find themselves facing new questions regarding their minor children. In New Jersey, a custodial parent who wishes to move out of state with their child must have a Court Order or the written consent of the other parent. Child Relocation in New Jersey can become more complex if the noncustodial parent does not agree to the move, and the Court must decide whether the relocating parent can leave the state. If a non-custodial parent wants to move out of the state there are no laws preventing it.

In the 2001 case of Bauers v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001) the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the custodial parent seeking to relocate the child must prove good faith and that his or her request to move is in the best interest of the child. The Court established various factors to consider in determining whether to grant the custodial parent’s application to relocate a child if the non-custodial parent objects:

  1. Reasons given for the move;
  2. Reasons given for the opposition;
  3. Past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it bears on the reasons advanced by both parties for supporting and opposing the move;
  4. Whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here;
  5. Any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation and whether such accommodation or its equivalent is available in the new location;
  6. Whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child;
  7. Likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent if the move is allowed;
  8. Effect of the move on extended family relationships here and in the new location;
  9. If the child is of age, his or her preference;
  10. Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent;
  11. Whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate; and
  12. Any other factor bearing on the child’s interest.

After the burden of good faith and best interest of the child is met by the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent must provide evidence that the child’s interest will suffer from the relocation. Visitation alone is not considered proof as to whether the child’s interest will be jeopardized by the move

Parents considering moving within New Jersey must also be aware of whether they will need permission to do so. Generally, a move that is far enough away to necessitate a change in a previously entered Court ordered parenting plan or a mutually agreed-upon schedule will require permission from the non-custodial parent. As with child relocation out of state, unless a consent order is signed by the non-relocating parent, the parent interested in moving must seek the Courts approval through filing a motion.

Child relocation in New Jersey is a complex and emotional issue that many divorced New Jersey parents must face. Due to the complicated and sensitive nature of the matter it is recommended to consult with a New Jersey family law attorney familiar with child relocation.

USING MEDIATION AFTER DIVORCE

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Mediation is not only for divorcing couples.  Mediation maybe used at anytime a dispute arrises.  After divorce, a change in one spouses employment, change in health, relocating are just a few examples of issues that may be addressed in mediation.  Choosing mediation over litigation  is often highly beneficial to maintaining amicable relations.

Property Settlement Agreementdivorce mediator Edison NJ

Mediation is especially helpful in modifying a property settlement agreement after divorce. If there is disagreement any time after the agreement is signed, a mediator can guide the parties in coming to a fair compromise.

Alimony is usually a major issue addressed in the property settlement agreement and can be modified if certain circumstances change. Changes in employment and income commonly call for payments to be adjusted. Seeing a mediation attorney to draft these changes can save parties significant time, money, and stress.

Child Custody

If a property settlement agreement was previously signed by parents it is likely to contain a child custody agreement. Whether mediation or litigation was used in the divorce, ex-spouses who co-parent may find it helpful to use mediation to modify the child custody agreement as their child grows and family dynamics change. While many co-parents, especially those who have used divorce mediation, have an amicable and effective parenting relationship, seeing a divorce mediator Edison NJ or surrounding areas when circumstances change can aid in keeping the situation peaceful.

As a child grows their needs and interests will change, which means previous child custody agreements may not hold as much relevance. Instances in which a parent relocated may also find child custody mediation effective. Using mediation in these cases does not weaken the family unit as might litigation, but rather it acts as an aid in continuing the amicable and reduced stress environment that both parents have worked hard to achieve.

While divorced couples are usually equipped to handle conflict, mediation should be kept in mind as an alternative solution.  Certain complex issues, especially those involving children, will benefit from the help of an effective mediation attorney.

Contact us today to set up an appointment for you and your spouse.  Armour Law Firm for your divorce mediator Edison NJ and surrounding areas.

Divorce Mediation and Children

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Divorce Mediation and Children

One of the main concerns of parents going through or contemplating divorce is the affect it will have on their children. While it is commonly thought that this will be solely negative, the impact greatly depends on how the conflict is handled and how well the spouses are able to communicate as parents. Divorce mediation and children may involve custody and or child support mediation are increasingly popular alternatives to litigation because focus is put on open communication and compromise.

Mediation vs. Litigation

A 12 year study conducted by Dr. Robert E. Emerydivorce mediation andchildren – whose research focuses on family relationships and children’s mental health – found that divorce mediation had a positive impact on family relations. Couples were randomly assigned with litigation or mediation, making it clear that the outcomes were linked to the method of divorce. Mediation lasted an average of only five hours, was problem focused, and sensitive to emotions.

After 12 years only 9% of the nonresidential parents who litigated saw their children weekly compared to 28% of those who mediated. Telephone contact was also more prevalent among the nonresidential mediation group with 52% of parents speaking to their children weekly compared to 14% of those who used litigated divorce.

In addition, residential parents saw nonresidential parents more positively, giving them better “grades” in all areas of parenting from running errands to discussing problems.

Collaborative and Non-Adversarial

Being that mediation is a collaborative process both parents actively participate in developing a healthy and fair parenting plan. Working together closely during mediation sessions allows parents to come to a mutual agreement on each specific issue. This can include weekly schedules as well as schedules for holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other special occasions.

Mediation helps avoid the adversarial process that comes with litigation and the flexibility in communication makes it easier to include children in decision making. Instead of worrying about parents battling in court, children may feel more open to share their feelings knowing they will be listened to by parents who are committed to problem solving together.

Contested divorce is inevitably full of conflict and easily leads to having children feel as if they are stuck in the middle, even when both parents have the children’s best interests in mind. Mediation gives parties a chance to work through issues without major conflict and learn to separate their personal interests from their children’s interests in the process.

Creating Effective Relationships

divorce mediation and children nj

One of the most beneficial ways divorce mediation affects children is the new relationship it helps parents develop with one another. Because parenting after divorce is a whole new dynamic it requires the development of new types of relationships – with both the ex-spouse and child. Spending energy on blaming one another for the failed marriage takes away from valuable effort that can be spent on nurturing these new relationships.

Mediation is a way to set aside blame and begin learning how to work together to effectively raise children. Mediation teaches parties to communicate effectively and develop new skills to create solutions for the future; these same problem solving and compromising skills are crucial to healthy parenting and stress reduction.