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Co-Parenting: Worried Your Child May Call Someone Else ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’?

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Co-parenting, Parenting Time, and Divorce Attorneys Morristown NJ

Family Law Attorneys Guiding parents across Morris County and Northern New Jersey in Child Custody, Child Support, and co-parenting issues.

Co-parenting, Parenting Time, and Divorce Attorneys Morristown NJEnding a relationship as a result of divorce, civil union dissolution, or death isn’t easy especially if there are children involved. Even if child custody, parenting time, child support, and spousal support and alimony have been decided, these challenges may pale in comparison to what might await when you co-parent and you or your ex-spouse decide to pursue new relationships. Within the happy Brady Bunch clan with widower Mike Brady and presumed divorcee/widow Carol Brady, things functioned well and we never heard about exes or parental alienation drama. Being part of a blended family is an all too common modern reality that can be challenging not only for you but for the children involved, especially if your child starts referring to that new partner as “mom” or “dad.”

Many parents manage this issue without court intervention or outside help. Secure in their parental role and position, other parents may not care what their child calls their romantic partner. Unfortunately, if a parent feels their position in the child’s life is being usurped by the child calling someone else “dad” or “mom”, these issues can result in one parent seeking child custody modification or child support modification.

At Jacobs Berger, LLC our attorneys take pride serving clients and their families from local Morris County towns such as Morristown, Madison, Randolph, East Hanover, Denville, Florham Park, Dover, Rockaway, and across all of Northern New Jersey. Our attorneys believe in helping our clients build a solid foundation not only for their family’s financial, but for their personal future. If you are looking for a firm that takes the time to understand their clients before offering legal advice, look no further.

Situations involving significant others and stepparents can present some delicate problems and should be assessed on a case by case basis. If you seek resolution, guidance or mediation to these or other family issues, please contact us online or call our Morristown offices today by dialing (973) 710-4366 for a strategic planning session with one of our qualified and experienced attorneys.

Your Child’s Free Speech or First Amendment Right & Constitutional Implication

Your Child’s Free Speech or First Amendment Right & Constitutional ImplicationIn blended families when the parties share children, a child may ask to do something another child in the same household does, or may unconsciously refer to the other adult in the family the same way as the other children, because they want to be the same or included in that family dynamic. Even if the adult figures are not married, that long-term, live-in relationship, or significant other may be referred to as ‘mom’ or ‘dad.’

In B.S. v. T.S., the parties sharing a child divorced in 2010. Several years later, the ex-husband remarried a woman who brought children of her own into the relationship. The ex-wife of the husband filed a motion with the court requesting that her ex-spouse and his new wife, not permit the 8-year-old child (she and her ex-husband had together) to ever call the stepmother “mom” and that the child should always refer to the stepmother by her first name. The child’s biological mother believed doing so infringed on the mother-child relationship she shared with her child.

After hearing testimony and interviewing the child in chambers, Ocean County New Jersey Superior Court Judge Lawrence decided that a child may decide whether to call a stepparent “mom” or “dad” or any derivative thereof if the child involved is mature enough to make his own decision. Although there was little precedential guidance under existing New Jersey case law, the court held:

In this case, where the child is of sufficient age and maturity to distinguish between his or her biological parent and stepparent, the choice of which way to address the step-parent belongs to the child, and not to either parent. Neither parent may force the child to either call a stepparent “mom” or “dad” against the child’s will or forbid the child from doing so.

What role does a stepparent play in the child’s upbringing?

Co-parenting in the child’s best interestsMany people believe biological parents should encourage positive relationships between their child and the stepparent, rather than hinder them and do what is best for the child. In B.S. v. T.S., the Court stated that “all too often, titles and symbols become the basis for wholly unnecessary and disproportionate battles between otherwise reasonable people” and that “ultimately, the strength of a child’s relationship with his or her biological parents rests on far more than surface labels, or how a child personally wishes to address a step-parent or any other third person.”

The Court held that:

If a child calls a stepparent “mom” or “dad”, this action does not turn the step-parent into a parent. When two divorced and active parents share joint legal custody of a child, all major parenting decisions are to be made by the parents, and not by a stepparent. A stepparent, however, may assist the parent with whom he or she is partnered in helping raise a child, and in such capacity may potentially play an important, ongoing and positive role in a child’s upbringing and life.

Co-parenting in the child’s best interests

Tension and negative talk can undermine your long-term co-parenting goals that can positively guide and empower your own transition toward a less stressful post-divorce life. It might be difficult to get along with a former spouse, but the priority should always be the child’s best interests.

By taking the child’s age and maturity level into consideration and letting the child develop their own judgments regarding their parental figures, children can possibly lead to more confident and capable lives.

Consult our Morristown Family Law Attorneys

Co-parenting can become a difficult topic to handle after a divorce or separation. As a parent, you can only do your best and keep the best interest of your child. However,  whether you are facing co-parenting issues, it´s advisable to retain a caring, understanding and professional attorney.  If you need to seek a legal modification to your parenting plan, our firm is prepared to help.

Reach out to us at 973-710-4366 or check our online form; we look forward to representing your legal rights.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.