Call Today For A Free Initial Consultation
Schepisi & McLaughlin, P.A.
Main Site Navigation

Englewood Cliffs Legal Blog

Mistaken perceptions in custody cases involving divorce

As some New Jersey parents have discovered, fighting for custody when there are allegations of abuse is often an emotional, lengthy and costly process that is surrounded by mistaken perceptions. While it is often thought that courts favor mothers in these cases, the data suggests that fathers are actually the ones who seem to be favored in cases where abuse on the part of the father is alleged and where the father claims parental alienation.

Parental alienation involves one parent doing and saying things that might make the child hostile towards the other parent. In cases where a parent is accused of abuse, the parent might claim parental alienation, suggesting that the other parent might have coached or guided the child to say abuse was going on. However, some experts say that parental alienation is not as common as many people think. One judge said she has never seen a real, substantiated case of parental alienation. Instead, she said, judges might be unconsciously acting based on their own experiences and culture, which until recently did not take domestic abuse seriously.

Where a parent lives could influence a custody ruling

A parent's living situation could play a key role in how a child custody case is decided in New Jersey or any other state. A judge wants to know that a child will be safe while living with a mother or father. Therefore, parents can improve their chances of obtaining custody by showing that they live in a safe neighborhood or by moving to a safe neighborhood.

If a parent does decide to move, the new home or apartment will ideally be roughly the same size as the old home or apartment. It should also have multiple rooms so that both the parent and child can live comfortably and have their own personal space. A court may prioritize personal space if the child is not the same gender as the parent seeking custody. Furthermore, older children may have a greater need for privacy than younger children.

How to develop an effective parenting plan

There are many issues you have to contend with during the divorce process. The Philly Voice recently ran a column about how alimony is generally the most contentious issue in a divorce. While determining alimony does usually take up a lot of time in court, there is another issue you need to be ready for: child custody. 

If you and your spouse have children, then you will need to figure out how much time the kids spend with each parent and how you will coordinate drop-offs and pick-ups. This is an emotional issue for both parents because they both want as much time with the kids as possible. Before you first step foot in court, you should try to work out an arrangement with the other parent so you do not spend as much time arguing in a courtroom. Here are some steps that can help you accomplish that. 

How to get ready for child custody proceedings

Parents in New Jersey who are seeking custody of their kids will first need to attend a child custody hearing. A judge will base his or her decision on state law and other factors that are unique to a given case. For instance, parents can show that they have spent time with the child by producing visitation logs. Parents can also show that they have supported a child financially by producing copies of checks made out to the other parent.

Those who are seeking sole custody of a child will need to show that joint custody is not practical in a given matter. This may be done by asserting that the other parent could physically abuse or emotionally neglect a son or daughter. In some cases, the fact that the other parent lives in another city or state may be enough to award sole custody to the person asking for it.

Helping kids thrive when parents divorce

When New Jersey parents decide to divorce, they may be concerned about how to best help their children navigate this transition. Divorce can stir up a lot of complicated emotions for children. Some may fear that their parents will abandon them or stop loving them. Others may struggle with the practical changes, like moving from one parent's home to the other on a regular basis. Divorce will almost certainly cause a significant amount of change and disruption in a child's life. However, parents can take action to help make the divorce process less traumatic and healthier for their children.

Kids may feel as if they are forced to choose sides between their parents in a divorce. They may worry that they should not mention positive things about their relationship with one parent to the other parent. This can lead to a significant amount of emotional pain and confusion. Parents can help to avoid this situation of divided loyalties by working to build a more collaborative co-parenting agreement. Children should be encouraged to have a positive relationship with the other parent, and parents should not complain or vent about their former partners to the kids.

Tips for protecting money in a divorce

While New Jersey is an equitable property state, this does not mean that all seemingly "personal" property will be safe from division in a divorce. Some spouses think that maintaining their own separate accounts provides financial protection if their marriages end, but the reality is more complex.

Under equitable property laws, money earned by each spouse is considered the property of each spouse in case of divorce. However, attorneys may sometimes successfully argue for a different type of settlement. People who are genuinely concerned about keeping assets separate in a divorce may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. In a survey from the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, attorneys reported a rise in the number of prenuptial agreements, particularly among millennials. These agreements may be changed or even nullified later if the couple wants to do so. For couples who do not want to use a prenuptial agreement, printing out account statements for the month prior to the marriage can show what they are bringing into the marriage.

How to structure a financially sound divorce settlement

It is important for individuals in New Jersey and elsewhere to consider the financial ramifications of a divorce settlement. For instance, it may not be smart to keep the marital home as it can be expensive to maintain. Furthermore, property and mortgage interest deduction caps may limit the tax benefits of owning a home. It is also worth noting that capital gains exceptions are higher for married couples as opposed to single individuals.

Therefore, it may be best to sell the home prior to the divorce and split the proceeds. It can also be a good idea to buy long-term care or life insurance policies before a divorce is final. This is because individuals can buy them at lower rates and retain those rates after the marriage officially comes to an end. In many cases, it is necessary to review and make changes to an estate plan after a divorce.

Should you join a divorce support group?

There is a lot you will ask yourself if you ever go through a divorce. You will have questions related to child custody and how you will divide your retirement savings. However, there are some questions you may not immediately ask yourself but are nonetheless important. One such question could be, "Should I go to a divorce support group?"

Separating from a spouse is an emotionally draining time. Even if you know for a fact you cannot spend the rest of your life with this person, you will still feel upset going through the divorce process. It will upend your life substantially, and you may not know what to do next once everything is final. Divorce support groups exist to help people sort out their emotions and talk to other people who have gone through the same thing. You can find them in almost any city around New Jersey, and even if you need to drive a ways to go to the meetings, it is still often worth it. 

Co-parenting and sharing child custody in the summer

Two-household summers can be stressful for children with divorced parents in New Jersey. This is also a time when there's no longer the structure of school and other routines that normally fit neatly into a prearranged scheduled. However, summers can still be relaxing and enjoyable for children sharing time with both parents who take the right approach to co-parenting.

Parents looking to make shared child custody or co-parenting arrangements work during the summer months are typically encouraged to cooperate and communicate by planning things in advance whenever possible, being reasonably flexible, and working with a mediator or counselor if there are points of disagreement that can't be worked out. Parents are also advised to avoid negatively speaking about each other in front of the children and acknowledge that the other parent is also doing their best given the circumstances involved.

What to consider before taking a child overseas

New Jersey parents who are divorced are usually allowed to spend time with their kids without their former spouses present. In some cases, this involves taking a child to another country. Ideally, exes will include the terms of such travel in their parenting plan. At a minimum, both parents should know where their kids are going to be at all times. This can be done by providing an itinerary before leaving on the trip.

The itinerary should list where the children will be staying, who they will be staying with and any other pertinent information. If a child does not yet have a passport, both parents may have to agree that he or she can have it before going through the application process. However, if a child is over the age of 16, it's possible to apply for a passport without such permission.