New Jersey Family Law Part 2: Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody Laws in NJ

Are There any Unusual Arrangements Available for Parents who Have Unique Circumstances When it Comes to Child Custody in New Jersey Family Law?

Yes – courts will approve of nearly any agreement if they believe it is in the best interest of the child. One of the more unusual plans is called ‘bird’s nest’ custody. In this arrangement, the children remain in the marital residence (or one residence) and the parents move in and out in accordance with the parenting time agreed upon. Usually, the custodial parent will live in the house the majority of the time but will vacate the property when it's time for the noncustodial parent. This arrangement helps the child get the stability that is often sorely needed when a divorce happens – but it's not for everyone.

What if I Cannot Stand my Spouse and We Have a Difficult Time Co-Parenting and Communicating?

In New Jersey family law cases, there has been a modern trend to allow parallel parenting over co-parenting, particularly when the parents have a contentious history. Co-parenting is more of a partnership and relies on parents who are able to communicate without conflict. Not everyone can achieve this balance – especially right after the split. Parallel parenting might be a better option. This kind of approach limits the amount of contact ex-partners have with each other, reducing conflict and ensuring the children do not become mixed up in an argument. Parallel parenting utilizes technology and electronic communication, meaning the parties are disengaged and less emotional when making arrangements or coming to agreements for their children.

How can my Ex-Partner and I Work Towards Effectively Co-Parenting Our Children?

It will take work, that is for sure. But if you do some of the following tips and are dedicated to practicing co-parenting, you and your ex-partner will greatly reduce the conflict your children experience. Put your past experiences with your ex aside – you are now concerned about the present and future of your children. Don't let an affair or a nasty comment said in the marriage derail this goal. Use technology to communicate, especially if you are annoyed with each other. This allows you to respond in a measured way, and not say anything you regret. Remember – don't write anything you do not want to be read aloud in front of a jury. And understand that there will necessarily be ‘blind spots' when it comes to your children spending time at the other parent's house – you cannot control every little thing in their lives when they are apart from you. Once you come to grips with this, you will learn to recognize the big battles.

Who Gets to Determine the Role Religion Will Play in the Children’s Lives Under New Jersey Family Laws?

The parent of primary residence (PPR) has the primary responsibility in exposing children to religion and their religious upbringing, if any. Of course, the other party is allowed to expose the children to a different religion – but they cannot educate them in this religion. In cases where the parents share equal parenting time of the children, then the primary residence is the one where the child lives during the majority of the school year. Courts will allow parents to agree to a different arrangement, but the default rule is for the PPR to choose. Therefore, if you and your ex-partner decide to agree on various religious courses or exposure, the agreement must be explicitly written, with details about all manner of religious upbringing. This can be particularly important if the two parents share a different religion, and want their child to have exposure to both.

Are There any Restrictions Regarding Relocating Within the State of New Jersey With the Child?

Unlike moving out of state, there is no statute under New Jersey family laws concerning relocation within the state. However, there is great case law on the matter, which states that if such a move is found to be a substantial change in circumstances, then a modification of custody and parenting-time might be warranted (Schulze v Morris).

Further, see New Jersey Family Law Part 1: Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody Laws in NJ, New Jersey Family Law Part 3: Frequently Asked Questions About How Assets Are Divided in A Divorce? and New Jersey Family Law Part 4: Frequently Asked Miscellaneous Questions. If you have questions about unique custody arrangements or relocating with your child during a New Jersey family law matter, contact the law offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free, initial consultation today at 201-845-7400.

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