For many New Jersey couples, the primary focus within their divorce was how to divide parenting rights and obligations. Child custody matters are deeply important to parents, especially at a time when both parties are concerned about how the shifting family structure will change their relationship with their kids. In most cases, parents are able to work out a detailed parenting plan that places the needs of their children at the forefront. As time passes, however, those needs often change, leaving the parents with a custody schedule that may no longer be the best fit. At that point, it is time to sit down and work out a new agreement, which can be a challenge for parents who are unable to effectively communicate with each other as co-parents. As kids settle into the beginning of a new school year, parents are provided with an opportunity to review their parenting plan, and to look for areas that are in need of modification.
Kids grow and change at an astounding rate, and it can be difficult to stay on top of their shifting needs and priorities. For example, a child who was previously only slightly interested in sports could decide that he or she must make the varsity soccer team this year. While an admirable goal, that requires a significant degree of time and effort. Practices, training, games and fundraising could all become necessities as the season moves on, and the existing child custody schedule may make it difficult to meet those obligations. At that point, parents should sit down and discuss how to work out a new schedule that is a good fit for everyone involved. The same can be said for a child who requires after school tutoring, is active in the school’s theater department, is competing in academic competitions or encounters an illness or injury that requires regular medical care.
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As children grow older, these are just some of the changes that they might encounter. When parents try to adhere to a rigid and inflexible child custody schedule, the outcome is likely to be negative for all involved. The best way for New Jersey parents to address this issue is to try and sit down and work out a solution on their own. When that is simply not possible, it may be time to contact a family law attorney to determine whether asking the court to modify the existing parenting plan is the proper course of action. Children only live at home for a limited number of years, and parents have an obligation to help them pursue their needs, goals and interests during that period of time, even when that means making compromises in the structure of the existing parenting plan.