Category: Child Visitation

New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers: Summer Parenting Time

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As the school year comes to an end and the summer months approach, many families begin to make summer plans regarding vacations and summer camps for their children. For an intact family, this is can be an exciting and easy experience. However, this task may prove much more challenging and difficult for a divorced or separated couple.

This is due to many reasons, including the structure of certain custodial arrangements as well as the differing desires of each party as to whether or not the children will attend camp, and if so where; or, the location and length of time for a vacation with the children. Some custodial arrangements even contain language that specifically alters custody and parenting time during the summer months, especially if parenting time during the school year is limited for one parent due to the combination of the children’s school schedule and that parent’s work schedule.

It is highly advantageous for divorced or separated parents to settle these matters outside of Court. If that cannot be done, the appropriate application with the Court can be filed. Courts are likely to rule based on past traditions and, absent any extenuating circumstances, equal parenting time for each party. For example, if the father’s parents reside in Florida and the family has traditionally taken a two week trip down to visit them each August, chances are the Judge will allow the father to continue this tradition while simultaneously awarding the other parent a reasonable trip of similar length and distance.

There is never a guarantee that the Court will grant your requested relief. The Court will likely order what is in the best interest of the children, and that is usually whatever arrangement provides them with adequate holiday and vacation time with both parents. It is important that you have proper representation throughout this process to ensure that you are receiving proper and adequate time with your children.

Contact the New Jersey Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates Today

If you or someone you know has issues in relation to summer parenting time, then call one of the skilled New Jersey child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777. Call for a consultation today at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

WRITTEN BY: WILLIAM LEMEGA

 

New Jersey Child Visitation Lawyers: Are Grandparents Entitled to Visitation With Their Grandchildren?

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The State of New Jersey affords grandparents the opportunity to file an application with the courts seeking visitation with their grandchildren. Such an application is governed by the statute N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1. The statute requires courts to apply the following factors when assessing a grandparent visitation application:

(1) the relationship between the child and the grandparent;

(2) the relationship between each of the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing, and the grandparent;

(3) the time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the grandparent;

(4) the effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing;

(5) if the parents are divorced or separated, the time sharing arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child;

(6) the good faith of the grandparent in filing the application;

(7) any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent; and

(8) any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.

The statute enables courts to balance the right of the biological parents to raise their child free of interference or court intervention with the obligation of the state to protect a child’s best interest. Accordingly, before the parent’s right to raise their child is imposed upon, a grandparent making an application for visitation with the court must show by a preponderance of the evidence that serious physical or psychological harm will come to the child if the application for visitation is denied. If the court determines the grandparent making the application fails to meet their burden, the application for visitation will be denied. If the court makes a finding that harm exists, the court will go forward to decide the issue of visitation with the best interests of the child being the foremost priority.

Contact the New Jersey Family Law Lawyers at Lyons & Associates

Whether you are the biological parent of the minor child or the grandparent seeking visitation, grandparent visitation applications require proper planning and execution. If you are defending against or require a visitation application to be filed, then call one of our skilled New Jersey child visitation lawyers at 908-575-9777. Call Lyons & Associates for a consultation today at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Kristyl Berckes

New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers: Who Gets the Kids for Halloween? Child Custody and the Holidays

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For some parents, the holiday of Halloween can be just as fun for them as it is for their kids. Parents like to see their kids in costume, enjoy cheering them on at school parades, and often take pleasure in accompanying them throughout the neighborhood as they fill their goodie bags with treats.

But what happens now that you and your ex are no longer together? Which parent gets that special parenting time?

Most Family Law Judges in New Jersey have a standard holiday parenting time schedule in which the parents alternate the major holidays, such as Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. But sometimes the other holidays can get lost or overlooked – like the child’s birthday, Halloween, and three-day weekends during the school year (Martin Luther King’s Day, Teachers’ Convention, etc.). Also, sometimes there are holidays that are important and specific your family or culture (like a family reunion that happens during the same exact week ever year). Unless you tell the Court about those events, they could be missed and left out of your Child Custody Order.

Contact a Skilled Family Law Attorney at Lyons & Associates

We at Lyons & Associates ask the important questions to make sure that all holidays are included in your child custody orders. We also strive to make sure that you enjoy regular vacation time with your children as well.

If you or someone you know has questions about child custody and the holidays, contact one of the skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Theresa A. Lyons

New Jersey Divorce Law Firm: Difference Between the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR)

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What Does Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR) Mean to me and my Kids?

There is a big difference between the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR), but before one can truly understand those differences, there first should be an understanding of the overall custody scheme in New Jersey.

When the parents of a minor child(ren) live separately, or are about to do so, the New Jersey Superior Court has the power to make judgments or orders concerning the child(rens) care, custody, education and maintenance. Within that process, it is important to define parental roles for everyday decision making and day to day custody, and to have those roles memorialized in writing – and if necessary, by the court.

In general, your right as a parent to be a part of the everyday decision making in your child’s life is protected under the New Jersey child custody statute, N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4. As stated by the New Jersey legislature “it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy.” N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4.

When it comes to custody itself, New Jersey courts recognize numerous custody arrangements. Until the court makes a determination as to final custody, and unless the parties agree otherwise, the court must determine temporary custody based upon the best interests of the child with due regard to the caretaking arrangement that previously existed before the parties separated. This means that if one parent was the sole breadwinner, while the other party was the stay at home parent, the court will likely take the previous status quo into consideration before creating an order.

An order for custody can include legal and residential custody as stated in the statute:

  •  Joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include:
  • provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child; and
  • provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare;
  •  Sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent; or
  • Any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.

[N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4.]

However, if the parties are in agreement about the type of custody arrangement they desire for their children, “[t]he court shall order any custody arrangement which is agreed to by both parents unless it is contrary to the best interests of the child,” and “[i]n any case in which the parents cannot agree to a custody arrangement, the court may require each parent to submit a custody plan which the court shall consider in awarding custody.” N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4 (d);(e).

If the parties or the court determine that custody will be joint legal and sole residential, the court will designate one parent as the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the other Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR). However, In situations in which parents share equal parenting time or have joint residential custody, there may not be designations of PPR and Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR).

The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines found on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/ define these terms, as does the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division’s decision in Benisch:

  • Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) – The parent with whom the child spends most of his or her overnight time. The primary residence is the home where the child resides for more than 50% of the overnights annually.
  • If the time spent with each parent is equal (50% of overnights each), the PPR is the parent with whom the child resides while attending school….
  • Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR) – This is the parent with whom the child resides when not living in the primary residence.
  • [Benisch v. Benisch, 347 N.J. Super. 393, 395-96 (App. Div. 2002).]

In general, once a PPR is chosen, the Courts will give more deference to that parent’s decision making authority than to the PPR. Also, the PPR is usually the parent who receives child support, while the PAR is usually the parent who pays child support. Finally, the PPR is usually the parent with more responsibility, including the responsibility to keep the PAR informed and matters that impact the child’s overall welfare.

Contact Woodbridge Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates Today

If you or someone you know has a question about what it means to be the PPR or the PAR, call one of the skilled New Jersey Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777.

Written by: Jennifer E. Presti, Esq.

Summer Parenting Time and Vacation for Divorced Parents

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We are in the heat of summer, literally and figuratively, and divorced parents are in the midst of coordinating parenting time schedules and summer vacations, along with their children’s summer camps and extracurricular activities. While this season allows for more flexibility and time spent with children, summer parenting time schedules and vacations usually require advanced and careful planning.

At Lyons & Associates, we specialize in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including helping divorced and separated parents who share joint legal custody plan out their summer vacations and parenting time schedules. Below are some tips to ensure that coordinating summer parenting time plans with your ex-spouse goes smoothly:

  • Create a Plan – A well-crafted divorce settlement agreement provides a specific outline for parenting time during the school year, as well as during summer vacation. Whether children will be attending summer camp or engaging in various extracurricular activities, the summer provides an opportunity for parents sharing joint legal custody to delineate schedules that allow for more parenting time and vacation time. A divorce settlement agreement should give each parent the opportunity to have some vacation time, whether it is the standard minimum of two weeks vacation and whether those two weeks should be consecutive or non-consecutive. Of course, if parents want to come to an agreement on additional vacation time, they certainly are permitted to do so. It is important, however, that the allotted vacation time be memorialized in the divorce settlement agreement.
  • Provide Notice – Divorce settlement agreements should contain notice provisions requiring either parent to notify the other of when they wish to exercise their summer vacation parenting time. Generally, such agreements require at least thirty (30) days notice, allowing the other parent to plan their own schedules for the summer while also preventing the other parent from scheduling their own vacation with the children during the same period of time.
  • Continue Open Communication – Divorce settlement agreements should require continued open communication between parents regarding the vacation itself. Provisions in the agreement should require the vacationing parent to provide information to the non-vacationing parent about where they will be traveling, when the vacation will take place, details about the accommodations, itineraries, and their contact information. Additionally, the vacationing parent should be required to ensure continued contact between the children and the non-vacationing parenting while they are away.

What Happens if the Non-Vacationing Parent Will Not Consent to the Vacation?

Once again, a well-crafted settlement agreement should account for such circumstances. While the consent of both parents sharing joint legal custody is required for a parent to go on vacation with the children, along with notice and communication provisions, the settlement agreement should contain a provision that does not allow a parent to unreasonably withhold their consent to a vacation. In other words, the parent withholding their consent must have a legitimate cause or concern for choosing to not allow the children to vacation with the vacationing parent. If your settlement agreement does not contain such a provision, you may find yourself forced to return to court to obtain a court order allowing you to go on vacation with your children.

At Lyons & Associates, we can help craft a well designed settlement agreement to ensure that summer vacation parenting time with your children goes smoothly. Call one of our experienced attorneys today at 908-575-9777, or fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Kristyl M. Berckes, Esq.

PPR in Child Custody Determinations – What it Means and Why it Matters

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In shared parenting child custody situations, the divorce and family law courts talk about the “PPR” and ”PAR.” What do these acronyms mean and why do they matter?

PPR means “parent of primary residence.” PAR means “parent of alternate residence.” The PPR is the parent with whom the child lives during the majority of an average week. If the parents split parenting time equally, then the PPR generally is the parent who lives in the child’s school district.

New Jersey uses different formulas to determine child support amounts based on whether one parent has the majority of the parenting time or whether parenting time is shared more equally. The more equally the split of parenting time, the lower the child support is likely to be – unless the incomes of the two parents are markedly different.

More information about the divorce process, including how divorce judges make child custody determinations, is available in Divorce in New Jersey – A Self-Help Guide published online by Legal Services of New Jersey.

Child Custody Questions? Contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates

At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Can I Withhold Payment of Child Support if I am Not Getting Enough Parenting Time with my Children?

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Child support and parenting time can present real challenges. At Lyons & Associates, P.C., we specialize in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, and we often get asked about the interplay between money for your kinds and time with your kids.

The short answer is “no.” Courts do not like it when parents try to withhold money or time.

Whether it is during the initial negotiation towards settlement of a divorce, or after judgment has been entered, many parents today find themselves feeling slighted when it comes to the amount of parenting time they are being offered or are able to spend with their children.

More times than not, the parent who feels slighted is the one with whom the children are not primarily residing with, or in legal terms, is the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR). In most cases, along with the title of PAR usually comes the responsibility to pay child support to your ex-spouse, who is more than likely the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR).

Despite the common perception that child support and parenting time are interchangeable issues that can be leveraged against one another in order to achieve your desired result, the reality is that, legally, the two are viewed as separate issues. In fact, attempting to withhold support will most likely blow up in your face and result in not only a judge reinforcing your support obligation and requiring you to pay arrears on any support payments you missed, but also may potentially result in the judge issuing sanctions due to your unconcealed bad faith in withholding support. Therefore, in the end, you are only harming yourself, as well as your children.

The best option if you feel you are not receiving enough parenting time is to have an open and honest conversation with your ex-spouse about being able to expand your parenting time with your children or, in the alternative, to file the proper application with the court. If your application is successful and you are indeed granted more parenting time, it is at that time that your child support will be adjusted accordingly.

Contact Lyons & Associates

If you have any questions about child support or parenting time, call one of our skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C., by calling 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written by: William P. Lemega, Esq.
Dated: 6-20-13

Why Does the Court Make Me Go to Parenting Education Classes?

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New Jersey law requires parents to attend a one-time class about parenting. The seminar costs $25, which you pay as part of the divorce petition filing fee. Both parents are required to attend, usually separately. If either parent does not attend, the divorce court judge may consider that fact when making decisions about child custody and visitation.

The New Jersey legislature enacted the parent education classes law in 1999, in response to the outcome of several academic studies demonstrating the positive impact on children’s development of positive co-parenting following divorce. Other, similar, studies showed a correlation between unhealthy developmental behaviors and parenting conflict after divorce. A summary of these studies, and a bibliography, can be found at the end of the article “When People Parent Together: Let’s Talk About Coparenting,” available online through the continuing education program at the University of Florida. The article discusses co-parenting on a nationwide basis.

The purpose of New Jersey’s “Parents’ Education Program,” according to the statute enacting the requirement, is to “promote cooperation between the parties and to assist parents in resolving issues which may arise during the divorce or separation process.” The class provides education on the following topics:

  • The legal process and cost of divorce or separation, including arbitration and mediation
  • Parents’ financial responsibilities for children
  • The interaction between parent and child, the family relationship and any other areas of adjustment and concern during the process of divorce or separation
  • How children react to divorce or separation, how to spot problems, what to tell them about divorce or separation, how to keep communication open and how to answer questions and concerns the children may have about the process
  • How parents can help their children during the divorce or separation, specific strategies, ideas, tools, and resources for assistance
  • How to make sure that children are not placed in the middle or used as tools for litigation
  • How parents can help children after the divorce or separation and how to deal with new family structures and different sets of rules
  • Understanding that cooperation may sometimes be inappropriate in cases of domestic violence

Questions About Co-Parenting After Divorce? Contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates

At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to men and women in New Jersey. To schedule an appointment regarding divorce or child custody conflicts, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

What Is a GAL and When Do New Jersey Cases Use Them?

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GAL stands for guardian ad litem. “Ad litem” means “for the suit,” meaning for the lawsuit. A guardian ad litem is an advocate appointed by the court to act on behalf of another party. Guardians ad litem are sometimes used in child custody and divorce cases, though less commonly in New Jersey than in other states.

New Jersey law distinguishes between a guardian ad litem and a “law guardian.” Any child who is the subject of child abuse, child neglect, or termination of parental rights must be appointed a law guardian. A law guardian must be an attorney admitted to practice law in New Jersey. The law guardian’s role is to “protect the child’s interests and help him express his wishes to the court.” N.J. STAT. §§ 9:6-8.23, 30:4C-15.4(b) (2004).

In New Jersey, a guardian ad litem is not a direct representative of the child. Instead, the guardian ad litem is charged with representing the child’s best interests and his or her services are to the court on behalf of the child. A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court, either on its own motion or at the request of either parent, in any court case where custody, visitation, or parenting time are contested.

According to New Jersey Court Rule 5:8B, the GAL’s job is to investigate and then make recommendations to the judge about custody and visitation. The GAL makes his or her recommendations based on:

  • Interviews with the children and parents
  • Interviews with other people with relevant information, such as teachers, social workers, friends and family
  • Documentary evidence, which could include reports from social workers, child psychologists, doctors, teachers, and so forth
  • The parents’ lawyers’ arguments, as made to the GAL
  • Discussions with the judge in the case
  • Reports and recommendations of independent experts, such as child custody evaluators or family psychologists
  • Assistance from a law guardian, if the judge agrees to the appointment of one

Guardians ad litem are not used frequently in New Jersey child custody disputes. They can be of assistance in very high-conflict child custody fights, however, since their role is to serve as an independent voice for the interests of the child.

Concerned About a High-Conflict Child Custody Fight? Contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates

At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to men and women in New Jersey. To schedule an appointment regarding divorce or child custody conflicts, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

What Is a Child Custody Evaluation?

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New Jersey Child Custody Evaluations

In New Jersey, as in all states, the parents of minor children of divorce can work out their own custody agreements based on the best interests of the children. If you and your ex-spouse are unable to do so, however, and the court becomes involved, the court may order a child custody evaluation. What does that look like? Must the judge follow the recommendations of the evaluator? This blog post offers an overview of the child custody evaluation process in New Jersey. To further discuss your questions or concerns, contact Lyons & Associates by online or call us at 908-575-9777.

The Child Custody Evaluation Process in New Jersey

The court will only seek the opinion of a child custody evaluator when the parents are unable to agree on physical and legal custody, or the terms of visitation or if a Judge sees something present like drugs or domestic violence that the Court believes could jeopardize the child’s best interests. The evaluator is typically a mental health professional, such a psychologist or family therapist. Once retained, the evaluator will conduct interviews with all relevant parties, including parents, children, school officials, doctors and others. As a parent, you will likely undergo a psychological examination, and the evaluator will prepare a psychological profile.

The evaluation can be extensive, including an evaluation of:

  • The ability of the parents to work cooperatively in the best interests of the child
  • The respective parenting skills of each parent
  • The psychological health of each parent, as well as of the children
  • Any evidence of domestic abuse or violence
  • Any evidence of substance abuse

Based on all the information gathered, the evaluator will make a written recommendation to the court regarding who should have custody and how visitation should take place, all based on the best interests of the child. Though the judge always has discretion to make a ruling based on his or her perception of the best interests of the child, for all practical purposes, the judge often concurs with the child custody evaluator. The decision can become more complex if there are more than one custody evaluation.

Contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates

At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to men and women in New Jersey. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.