A child custody agreement is essential for parents who choose to separate or divorce and contains two important components: physical custody, specifying where and with whom the child is actually living, as well as visitation and other parenting time issues; and legal custody, dictating who can make decisions on behalf of the child in regards to matters of health, education, and general welfare. Many times, the parents can easily agree on the terms of custody and visitation; other times, the terms of the custody award are Court-ordered after presentation of testimony and other proofs in a trial setting. Although the final child custody award is always intended to represent the child’s best interests, they are often less than ideal situations for either parent. When a parent tries to interfere with the other parent’s rights under the court-approved custody arrangement, however, it can have serious emotional and legal consequences.
The New Jersey child custody attorneys at Adinolfi & Lieberman, P.A., know that these can be difficult situations for parents and children. They understand the ever-changing nature of family law cases and can interpret them to effectively handle individual situations.
Most New Jersey child custody agreements involve joint legal custody, meaning that both parents have the authority to participate in important decisions. Though becoming commonplace, a joint physical custody agreement, wherein the child will spend roughly equal amounts of time with each parent, is less common and will only be reached if both parents agree to share parenting time. In the majority of custody cases, the court will designate a “primary parent of residence” (PPR) with whom the child will spend the majority of their time. The “parent of alternate residence” (PAR) has visitation, but significantly less parenting time.
The child’s emotional and physical well-being is always the primary concern when designating a PPR. Factors such as which parent was the primary care-giver before the separation, as well as practical considerations such as the location of the child’s school and parents’ work schedules, are all taken into consideration by the court. In most New Jersey child custody cases, parents are given the opportunity to work out their own parenting time agreement, either on their own or through mediation. If parents cannot agree, the court will establish and order a parenting time arrangement.
Generally, judges in New Jersey believe that a child will benefit from spending time with both parents, except in cases of abuse or neglect, and will attempt to reach a solution that gives significant parenting time to each parent. Because of this, courts will consider each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent. A parent who discourages or prevents such a relationship will be at a disadvantage in child custody negotiations.
Once a parenting agreement is reached, it is up to each parent to abide by the terms of the agreement and allow a relationship between the child and the other parent to continue. There are a number of ways parents can violate this agreement, such as changing or canceling designated visitation time, preventing phone communication, and intercepting mail. The PPR in a child custody agreement cannot excessively disrupt the other’s parenting time, either by dropping by unannounced or calling repeatedly. The PAR is responsible for keeping visitation appointments, or risk losing visitation rights.
Failing to abide by a child custody agreement can have serious consequences. If visitation time is impeded or canceled, make-up time may be scheduled and designated meeting locations may be changed. A parent who interferes with the other’s parenting time can be ordered to pay any costs resulting from missed visitation (including counseling for the child or for either parent), or be required to perform community service if the problem persists. The court may deem it necessary to change the primary parent of residence if it feels that would be in the child’s best interests. If a parent will not stop interfering with parenting time, he or she can be arrested and serve a jail sentence.
At the Haddonfield, New Jersey law offices of Adinolfi & Lieberman, P.A., our family law attorneys understand the emotional as well as the legal nature of parenting time disputes. We listen to our clients in order to understand their goals and then negotiate with their former spouse/partner and their attorney to develop and implement equitable and legally sound child custody and parenting time arrangements. When a mediated solution is unattainable, however, we are experienced and aggressive trial attorneys, prepared to litigate complex legal strategies and complicated factual scenarios.
We focus our practice on all areas of family law and represent clients throughout New Jersey, including the South Jersey communities of Camden County, Burlington County, Salem County, Gloucester County, Cumberland County and Atlantic County. To benefit from our experience, resources and personal service, please contact our Haddonfield family law offices today to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys by calling 856-428-8334 or contact us online.