Parenting Time and Child Visitation
NJ Child Custody and Parenting Time Attorneys
Protecting your time with your children
Parents generally want to spend as much time as possible with their children, so divorce and legal decisions relating to custody and parenting time can be both stressful and emotionally charged. The good news is that they don’t have to be.
At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys work with parents to ensure they have time with their children—both now and in the future.
Our unique approach centers around streamlining communication between parties. We work with parents to find solutions that maintain the stability of their co-parenting relationship, their relationships with their children, and their financial and legal futures.
If you’re getting divorced or are already divorced and have questions and concerns around parenting time and visitation adjustments, contact us for a strategic planning session.
Parenting Time vs. Visitation in NJ
“Parenting time” and “visitation” refer to the same thing: time parents spend with their children. However, New Jersey courts prefer to use the term “parenting time” because it doesn’t imply that one parent’s relationship has greater priority in a child’s life—no matter whose home is the child’s primary residence.
Child custody and parenting time are determined according to what the courts determine to be in the best interest of the child, whether the parents have been married or not. In New Jersey, both physical custody and legal custody (decision-making about issues pertaining to the health, welfare, religious observance, and education of the children) are included in the umbrella term “child custody”—and without good cause, the courts don’t favor one parent over the other.
When it comes to parenting time specifically, the New Jersey courts believe that, absent something which harms or endangers the child, having a relationship with both parents is important for the child. Therefore, parenting time will be granted in almost every case.
The courts also consider a parent’s relationship with the child, home living conditions, and travel time between parental homes.
If you’re trying to reach a parenting time agreement, the family lawyers at Jacobs Berger can guide you through the process. Our founding attorneys have over 25 years of combined experience in assisting parents with child custody and parenting time matters.
The Importance of Having a Well-Crafted Parenting Time Plan
Once a parenting time arrangement has been finalized, co-parents will need to draft a parenting plan, which sets schedules, guidelines, and agreed-upon boundaries for raising the child.
Many of our clients who have positive working relationships with their co-parents tend to undervalue the importance of having a well-written and in many cases very detailed child custody and parenting time agreement—but the future is unpredictable.
It’s important that your parenting time agreement is flexible and takes into consideration some of the common scenarios which can arise after a divorce—such as a new significant other or a change in how the family celebrates holidays.
The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger have extensive experience in helping families craft parenting agreements. We can help you create an agreement that accommodates possible future changes and provides a useful template for modifications as children grow and the family dynamic continues to evolve.
Establishing Child Custody Parenting Time Schedules
Child custody and parenting time agreements are multifaceted arrangements that vary dramatically according to parents’ unique situations and their children’s particular needs.
In some instances, parents have joint residential custody, also known as shared custody. In New Jersey, this means anywhere from 28% to 50% of the overnights in a given year. In cases of sole residential custody, one parent gets less than 28% (104 overnights) with the child.
Once custody and parenting time are determined, a plan and schedule need to be set. The schedule should accommodate children’s extracurricular interests, parents’ jobs, travel time between parental homes, holidays, and how you’ll plan for flexibility when unexpected issues arise.
At Jacobs Berger, our child custody lawyers can work with you to create a future-minded parenting plan.
What is a typical parenting schedule?
There’s no “typical” parenting schedule because each family’s situation is different.
However, when determining the schedule that works for your family, you should consider:
- Parental work schedules
- Children’s after-school interests
- Travel time between parents’ homes
- Holidays and vacations
- What you’ll do if an unexpected problem arises
- Flexibility around missed parenting time, such as if one parent knows in advance that they have a scheduling conflict on a particular weekend
For instance, one parent may want an extended vacation with their child over the summer break, while another may prioritize a particular holiday. The demands of a parent’s job may also make a rigid schedule problematic.
It’s also important to remember that as children grow, their interests and participation in sports or other extracurricular activities may change how they spend their time. A parenting plan is intended to benefit the child as well as the parents.
Our Other NJ Child Custody Visitation Services
Once a parenting plan has been finalized, it’s important that each parent stick to the agreement. If or when a parent interferes with custody or parenting time, there can be very serious legal consequences.
However, it’s also important to acknowledge that as children grow up, needs and schedules may change. Parents’ lives change too. You or your co-parent may start a new job, move, or enter into a new relationship.
Whatever changes may arise, know that there are legal avenues for making needed adjustments. The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger have extensive experience in helping parents make necessary modifications to—or enforcements of—parenting time agreements.
Parenting time modifications
While the goal of any well-written parenting agreement is to account for potential future issues, circumstances can change unpredictably or substantially enough to warrant a child custody or parenting time modification.
In certain instances, co-parents may be in agreement that a change needs to be made—and they may agree on how to do it.
When the parties aren’t in agreement, the parent seeking to revise the parenting plan or court order will have to show the courts that there has been a significant life change that merits a modification. Relocating with children out-of-state is a common reason for a parent to pursue a change through the courts, but there are many others that necessitate working on modifications of your original order or agreement.
Parenting time enforcement
If your co-parent doesn’t follow the terms of your parenting plan or court order, you may need to pursue enforcement. New Jersey courts take very seriously any parent obstructing the relationship between their children and another parent.
If you choose to file a motion with the courts accusing your co-parent of violating your parenting time agreement, you’ll need to present hard evidence of this violation.
For this reason, we highly recommend that you first speak with our family law attorneys. We can help you gain a clearer understanding of your legal rights and options moving forward. We may also be able to help resolve your parenting time enforcement dispute with your co-parent before taking the matter to court.
NJ Child Custody and Parenting Time FAQs
A good 50/50 custody schedule looks different for every family.
Possible schedules can look like:
- Split weeks, such as one parent having the children for four days and the other for three or other similar combinations
- Alternating weeks with the children in each home for seven days
- More personalized scheduling according to unique work, holiday, and vacation preferences
Children’s activities, parents’ work schedules, family traditions, and geography all factor into finding the right 50/50 schedule for your family and whether or not a 50/50 schedule is what’s best for you and your children.
In New Jersey, unless the facts of a particular family give the court good reason to favor one parent over another, parents generally have equal rights. This means that when it comes to making child custody and parenting time decisions, the court system won’t privilege one parent over the other because of their gender. The same is true in same-sex relationships or for parents who identify as non-binary. In all cases, custody decisions are made irrespective of gender identity.
The same criteria of equal rights apply in determining who pays child support.
Child custody orders can be modified if the changes are in the child’s best interest. There are two ways to pursue a modification in New Jersey.
You and your co-parent can create a consent order or consent agreement, which means you both agree to the change. If only one parent wants the change, they’ll have to file a modification motion with the court. Relocation, significant changes to a work schedule, or substantial behavioral changes by a parent are all grounds for requesting a modification.
Work with Our Trusted Child Custody Attorneys in New Jersey
At Jacobs Berger, LLC, we seek to ensure that your individual needs, interests, and rights as a parent are properly taken into account in any parenting time agreement or post-divorce dispute.
We have extensive experience drafting, modifying, and enforcing child custody and parenting time agreements of all kinds throughout New Jersey.
If you’re going through a divorce or have questions or concerns about parenting time, contact us. Our dedicated family law attorneys can guide you through the process—and help protect your current and future time with your children.