New Jersey Child Support and Child Custody Issues
Child custody decisions require parents to have the right information and advice to make informed choices for their child and themselves. New Jersey courts will look to the best interests of the children when deciding child custody cases. At Lyons & Associates, P.C., our experienced divorce lawyers will discuss each client’s goals, as well as provide the information needed to make an informed decision about child custody. We will provide our professional opinion based on years of experience and accumulated knowledge. No two cases are alike, and no two judges handle child custody cases in the exact same manner. For additional information, please visit our Benefits of Retaining Lyons & Associates page.
Because our founding partner and attorney also has a master’s degree in social work, we help clients work through some of the emotional challenges they may face and provide particular insight on the many psychological factors that impact child custody. We do not look at divorce or child custody as a procedure that must be followed; we treat it like the life-altering event that it is.
How Is Child Custody Categorized?
Child custody is typically referred to in terms of physical or legal custody. It is vital to understand both forms of custody when working with the courts or our child custody lawyers:
- Physical custody: Addresses where the children will primarily reside. Most parents decide which house the child will live in, but there are exceptions.
- Legal custody: Addresses who will be making major life decisions on behalf of the child.
Legal custody typically involves joint custody unless the court has a strong reason to award sole custody to a parent. With joint custody, both parents participate in the decisions that affect the child, including their health care, religious affiliation, and education. If a parent feels they deserve sole custody or an ex-spouse is trying to keep their children away, we will advocate on the parent’s behalf. Physical custody is decided based on factors such as geographic location, educational opportunities or preferred schools, proximity to friends and family, or parental access to the child. The child needs to be in a place that is best for them. When the parents can agree, we can record the custody decision in the divorce documents. The court prefers that parents come to a decision before a hearing.
In many cases, parents can come to an agreement before going to court. If an amicable solution on physical or legal custody cannot be reached, we will build a case that shows why the client should be awarded custody on the terms they desire. Split custody also allows one parent to have custody of certain children and the other parent to have custody of the other children.
Parents may also agree to allow their child to live in the same house while the parents rotate in and out of that space for visitation. This type of custody arrangement, known as nesting, is recommended by therapists, but clients will need our help explaining how this arrangement should look so that both parents can abide by the divorce decree. We will also advocate if the custody arrangement must be modified to suit particular needs. Ex-spouses can come to an agreement with our help, or we will fight for the child custody plan they want in court.
How to Create a Parenting Plan
New Jersey courts recognize the important role parents play in the lives of their children. A parenting plan, which emphasizes the quality, not just the quantity of time, is a flexible calendar that gives a child what they need. The adult should be adaptable when trying to give the child a normal life. There are two ways to create a parenting plan:
- Come to an amicable arrangement. If parents can reach an agreement on dates, times, holidays, and weekends, that agreement can be submitted to the court. When the parents agree on a parenting plan, the judge will most likely allow that parenting plan to stand.
- Allow the court to create the agreement. When a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon, the court will generate one.
We are happy to help mediate the situation if parents are confused about the process. We will create a parenting plan that works for everyone, balances quality with quantity, and allows flexibility in the event of an emergency. We understand how to alternate days of the week and weekends, and how to arrange holidays. Every family is different. Some holidays may be more important to a child than others, or certain days of the year may be significant. We will add that information to the parenting plan so that the child receives what they need.
Most couples can use a parenting plan, remain flexible, and never have a problem. If an ex-spouse, however, willfully violates the agreement or does not abide by the specific terms of the agreement, we will hold them accountable for their actions. We may even file a motion to amend the custody agreement when an ex-spouse has shown they will not abide by the agreement.
Can I Modify an Existing Agreement?
Adjusting to an existing child custody or child support agreement at any time is possible if there has been a significant change in a financial situation. This is important for couples who do not want to bankrupt each other or cause undue hardship. At 18 years old, children are no longer covered under the existing child support plan. New Jersey also reviews child support cases every two years to add the increased cost of living expenses. While this does not always happen in a timely fashion, parents may receive a notice of adjustment at any time. When ex-spouses remarry, child support typically stops unless there are extenuating circumstances to present to the court.
If a client must amend their child custody agreement, they can work with us to change the divorce decree. This occurs due to job changes, parents who move, parents who remarry, and a range of other factors. Children may also choose to live with the other parent as they get older, and we will ensure that that the new custody plan is reflected in the amended divorce decree.
What If My Child Has Special Needs?
Cases involving children who have special needs must be handled with extreme care as the stakes are high for both the child and the primary caregiver. Parents of children who have special needs should consult an attorney with experience and in-depth knowledge of the unique considerations that must be taken into account when determining arrangements for child custody and child support.
Clients may not have considered the many layers of caregiving and financial support a child will need. Because we have been through this process, we can offer a checklist of things that must be handled before a parenting plan and/or child support arrangement is complete.
Children do not like change, and children with special needs may have an even more difficult time coping. We will be strong advocates and aggressively pursue each client’s goals regarding child custody through negotiation or court, if necessary. We want to balance an amicable divorce with the custody and or child support requests made. It is better for each child if their parents get along, but we understand that some relationships cannot be repaired.
Domestic violence and child abuse may play a part in a divorce proceeding. As such, clients may not want to pay child support, may not want to offer free visitation to an ex-spouse, or may need a restraining order to protect themselves. Men and women can be abused at any time, and we support anyone who has been involved in an abuse case.
Some accusations of abuse are reckless, but some spouses fear for their lives when leaving a marriage. We work with divorcing parents who have been visited by the DCPP/DYFS. Clients may feel as though DCPP/DYFS was weaponized against them, DCPP/DYFS did not handle their case properly, or they refrain from bringing a complaint against an ex-spouse because of abuse that surfaced during the divorce.
At the same time, children may have been abused in their home, or they may have told lies because they did not understand the ramifications of their actions. We investigate these cases thoroughly, support our clients, and ensure that the case is resolved. We do not assume anything. Our legal team will investigate before coming to any conclusions. Unfortunately, we cannot take action unless we have strong evidence proving or disproving any abuse allegations.
Child Support Advice
In addition to handling child custody matters, we are positioned to advise clients about child support. Child support is typically governed by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. We can help clients understand those guidelines, as well as any factors that may warrant an adjustment. Child support may be agreed upon outside of court by using the basic calculator the state provides.
If ex-spouses come to an agreement, we can submit that information with the paperwork. We will assist if a client believes they are entitled to more child support or they should not pay as much as an ex-spouse has requested. Our knowledge of the child support process and previous court decisions helps us deliver the best advice for each situation. If an ex-spouse is not paying child support as agreed, we will help clients hold them accountable in court. Spouses who do not pay child support often have creative excuses for why they cannot pay. We look deeper into the case to determine the truth of the matter.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients With Child Support and Custody Matters
If you have concerns about creating or modifying child custody or support agreements, contact one of our New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. today. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online for a free consultation. We will explain the course of action you should take in your child support or custody case. With offices in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.