NJ Family Law - Child Custody/Parenting Plan

NJ Child Custody and Visitation / Child Support Enforcement Attorney

If your pending divorce will include disputes concerning child custody, child support, and visitation, make sure you have an experienced child custody and visitation attorney to represent your child's best interests. At the New Jersey divorce and family Law Offices of Diamond & Diamond, we provide both litigation and certified mediation services to help both parties come to a workable solution that truly is best for the child or children involved.

We believe that divorce doesn't have to be about dividing a child in two, or using a child as a weapon in an escalating war between you and your ex-spouse. Let us show you a better way to a child custody, support, and visitation schedule that the courts will approve, and your child will understand.

NJ Child Custody, Child Support, and Visitation Rights Law


  • Child Support Overview

  • Helping Your Child Cope with Divorce

  • Suggested Guidelines for Divorcing Parents

THE WHY, WHO, HOW AND WHERE OF CHILD SUPPORT

The following is a brief overview of WHY child support exists, WHO is able to receive child support, HOW the Courts determine the amount of support to award, and WHERE child support comes from, including what happens if the person who is required to make child support payments fails to do so.

Why

Child support reflects the continuous duty of both parents to financially support their children so that the children are not economic victims of divorce, separation, or out-of-wedlock birth.

Who

Children who are less than 18 years of age may receive child support. In instances where a child is over the age of 18 but still attends high school or another form of secondary education, the court must consider current case law and statutory law in determining whether that child is permitted to receive support.

How

Children are entitled to be financially supported in accordance with the economic status of each parent. New Jersey, after reviewing socio-economic studies, has developed guidelines to assist the Courts in determining a fair and adequate award of child support. The guidelines are based upon estimates of what intact families spend on their children. They reflect that parents in different income categories spend a different percentage of their combined incomes toward raising their children. For example, two parents who earn $50,000 together statistically spend a lesser amount on their children than do two parents who earn $150,000.

The support guidelines are set forth in the New Jersey Court Rules, 1969, Appendix IX-A. They address children whose parents' joint net annual income is below $150,800. They also take into consideration the possibility of a parent's underemployment or unemployment. In those instances, Appendix IX-A allows the court to impute income to a parent in certain situations.

There is a rebuttable presumption that the amounts set forth in the guidelines are correct. Unless a party convinces the court that circumstances warrant a deviation of the guidelines-based support amount, a court will not depart from the guideline amount. Those types of circumstances must fall into one of the factors set forth in Appendix IX-A, including but not limited to parenting time and multiple family obligations.

The guideline amounts already factor in various expenses for the child/children, including the child's share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, unreimbursed health care, and miscellaneous items such as personal care products and cash contributions. Expenses that are not included in the guideline amounts are: child care, health insurance, private school, and unreimbursed health care costs. The court may, in addition to basic child support, add additional obligations upon the parties to pay for the expenses.

Where

New Jersey Court Rule 5:7-4(b) requires upon application of either party that payments of child support (as well as alimony or maintenance) be made through the Probation Division in the County where the supporting parent/spouse resides, unless the opposing party shows good cause to the contrary. Those payments include costs for health care, child care, and other expenses necessary for the maintenance of the child/children, unless good cause is shown that such payments should be separated. In all child support orders entered or modified after October 1, 1990, R. 5:7-5(b) income withholding occur. This means that a Notice will be sent to the supporting parent's/spouse's employer(s) or other source of income requiring that the amount of child support be withheld from his/her paycheck and sent to the Probation Division.

If the supporting spouse/parent fails to make payments equal to the amount of at least 14 days of support, the Probation Division will initiate an income withholding for the arrears. The supporting party may contest the withholding on the basis of mistake of fact and a hearing or administrative review will be scheduled within 20 days.

If the supporting spouse/parent fails to make payments equal to the amount of at least 6 months of support or court-ordered health coverage is not provided for the child within 6 months, the Probation Division will issue a Notice advising that unless the supporting party pays in full the past due child support, all licenses (driving and/or professional, including law licenses) may be revoked or suspended. The supporting party, may request a hearing within 20 days if he disputes that he is in fact the obligor.

10 WAYS TO HELP YOUR CHILD COPE WITH YOUR DECISION TO DIVORCE

Your child’s life can be made easier by your actions, at the time of the divorce crisis. You should prepare your children for what lies ahead in as much concrete detail as possible. There is no way to prevent children from being distressed by your divorce; there are, however, important ways to help ease their fears and confusion.

1. You should tell your children about the divorce as soon as it has become a firm decision. Think very carefully about how you announce the separation, for what you say or fail to say will be long remembered. If possible, both parents should tell all of the children at the same time. Children can genuinely help each other at this time and take courage from the support of their siblings. If there are wide differences in the children’s ages, the parents should talk later to each child separately on a level that the child can truly understand.

2. You should express your sadness about the breakup of the family because it will give the children necessary permission to mourn, without having to hide their feelings of loss.

3. You should present the decision to divorce as a solution that the parents reached together, after they had tried every other way they could think of to solve their differences. In this way, the adults can convey the sense that they are responsible, loving parents who remain committed to the children, even though they have reluctantly decided to go their separate ways.

4. You should explain honestly that things will change. Life will be temporarily disorganized and routines will be disrupted. In short, the parents must make it clear that the divorce will bring changes that the whole family will have to face and overcome.

5. You should tell children of all major developments, as the family reorganizes. Children feel powerless at divorce and should be invited to make suggestions in matters concerning them. Adults should seriously consider these suggestions. They should be assured that they will have a say, for instance, in setting up the visiting arrangements. Once the schedule is settled, it should be explained to the children in detail. The children should not, however, be made to feel responsible for making major decisions. The goal is to involve them appropriately so that they can feel that they are participating in working out a solution to the family crisis.

6. You should advise the children that the divorce will not weaken the bond between parent and child, even if they live apart. They need to be reassured that, though parents may divorce each other, they do not divorce their children. The children should be told realistically that everybody will have to work hard to maintain these important connections.

7. You must stress to the children that the divorce is not in any way the fault of the child. They must be assured that the problem existed strictly between the two adults. The children should never be allowed to assume guilt for causing the breakup.

8. You must state clearly that the divorce is an irrevocable decision and that the children should not and cannot waste their time and energies in the fruitless schemes and fantasies of bringing their parents back together.

9. You will want to make every effort to keep separate their own hurt, anger and needs from the needs of their children. Children have a right to their own feelings and should not be asked to take sides or be forced to wander a noman’s-land in the divorce war.

10. Above all both parents must give their children permission to love and maintain a relationship with the other parent. This may be the hardest task of all for the adults, but it can be done. With a caring, courageous effort on the part of each parent, the children, even in the midst of their turmoil, can feel supported and loved.

Experts have offered the following list of ways which divorced or separated parents can help ease their children’s trauma and ensure that proper parenting continues when the marriage breaks up:

  • Emphasize that the divorce or separation is entirely the parents’ decision and explain the reasons.
  • Explain that the divorce or separation is not the child’s fault. This is so important!
  • Mention that every effort was made to preserve the marriage.
  • Point out that the decision is irreversible.
  • Be open to the child’s inevitable questions. If the child does not ask questions, do not assume that “everything is OK”.
  • Be prepared to offer repeated explanations to questions in the following months.
  • Reassure the child that his/her needs will be met.
  • Explain where your child will live and go to school, where the other parent will live and when they will see each other. Try to avoid moving the child.
  • Reassure the child that both parents love and will continue a close relationship with the child.
  • Try to spend individual time with each child.
  • Avoid using a child as a pawn, messenger or spy. Do not force a child to take sides.
  • Keep promises, maintain discipline and remember birthdays and holidays. Don’t forget, these are very important to the children.

Most of all, give your children lots of love and comfort during this time. Help them to adjust to a new lifestyle. When this is accomplished, your life will also take on a forward motion.

SUGGESTED GUIDELINES FOR SEPARATED PARENTS

As you know, your children are usually the losers when their parents separate. They are deprived of the full-time, proper guidance that two parents can give - guidance and direction essential to their moral and spiritual growth.

It is highly desirable that you abstain from making unkind remarks about each other. Recognize that such remarks are not about a former spouse but are about a parent of your child. Such comments reflect adversely upon the children.

It is urged that both parents cooperate to the end that mutual decisions concerning the interest of the children can be made objectively. Parents should remember that the mother who has custody should urge the children to find time to be with the father and encourage them to realize that their father has affection for them and contributes to their support. The father should recognize that his plans for visitation must be adjusted from time to time in order to accommodate the planned activities of the child. Visitation should be a pleasant experience rather than a duty. Cooperation in giving notice and promptness in maintaining hours of visitation are important to avoid ruffled feelings.

Although there is probably some bitterness between you, it should not be inflicted upon your children. In every child’s mind, there must and should be an image of two good parents.

Your future conduct with your children will be helpful to them if you follow these suggestions:

Do's

  • Be discreet when you expose your children to any member of the opposite sex with whom you may be emotionally involved.
  • Notify your spouse as soon as possible if you are unable to keep your visitation. It’s unfair to keep your children waiting - and worse to disappoint them by not coming at all.
  • Make your visitation as pleasant as possible for your children by not questioning them regarding the activities of your spouse and by not making extravagant promises which you know you cannot or will not keep.
  • Minimize the amount of time the children are in the care of strangers or relatives.
  • Always work for the spiritual well-being, health, happiness and safety of your children.

Dont's

  • Don't poison your child’s mind against either the mother or father by discussing their shortcomings.
  • Don't use your visitation as an excuse to continue arguments with your spouse.
  • Don't visit your children if you have been drinking.

General

  1. The parent with whom the children live must prepare them both physically and mentally for the visitation. The children should be available at the time mutually agreed upon.
  2. If one parent has plans for the children that conflict with the visitation and these plans are in the best interests of the children, be adults and work out the problems together.
  3. Arrangements should be made through visitation to provide the mother with some time “away” from the family. She needs the time for relaxation and recreation. Upon her return, she will be refreshed and better prepared to resume her role as mother and head of the household. Therefore, provide for extended periods of visitation such as weekends and vacations.

With more than half a century's experience, it's easy to see that Diamond & Diamond is the smart choice when you find yourself in need of a child custody lawyer in New Jersey. Email or call us now at 973.379.9292