Child Custody Exchanges: Co-Parenting & The Logistics of Visitation
Creating Sensible Parenting-Time Arrangements across Madison, Tewksbury, Hanover, Florham Park, and Morris County
If you have children and are in the process of a divorce, civil union dissolution, same sex divorce, domestic partnership or legal relationship dissolution, or if you are an unmarried parent in need of legal guidance to secure your parental rights or draft a cohabitation agreement, our attorneys are here to help. Child custody and parenting-time agreements are often multifaceted arrangements that can vary significantly depending on each unique co-parenting situation and the children’s particular needs.
Child support in New Jersey is determined by child custody. While legal custody of the child(ren) will eventually be based on your custody agreement, you and your co-parent or will need to decide how much time each parent spends with their children, and when. A judicial issued visitation schedule should clarify each parent’s time with the child(ren) and address transportation related logistics between both parties.
As child custody and parenting-time agreements could likely determine the co-parenting guidelines for your family for years, barring a child custody modification, your parenting-time agreement must be drafted with the utmost care and attention to detail. Fortunately, New Jersey courts believe children of divorced parents should spend as much time as possible with both parents, so if you are committed to playing an active role in the life of your child(ren), the law is on your side.
At Jacobs Berger, LLC our founding attorneys have nearly 25 years of combined experience assisting clients with child custody and parenting-time matters across Madison, Randolph, Hanover, Florham Park, Morris County, and throughout New Jersey. Our unique approach to family law matters centers around open and honest communication between the parties. We have helped many couples create fair and dynamic plans, and find solutions which allow parents to maintain the stability of their co-parenting relationship, their relationship with their children, and their financial and legal futures.
New Jersey Child Custody Exchanges That Benefit Everyone
Although schedule interruptions are inevitable and the evolution of the child(ren)’s interests, desires and needs may prompt changes, when drafting parenting-time agreements, all parties and their legal counsel should try to account for numerous “what if” type scenarios (i.e., new job, out-of-state relocation, remarriage) to reduce the likelihood of additional financial and emotional stress resulting from a return to family court.
The challenging work of co-parenting begins after the child custody has been decided and the parenting plan is put in place. As co-parents you’re both legally obligated to follow the schedule, so it is critical that you made every effort to work together and create one with your child’s best interest in mind. This opportunity to learn from previous relationship missteps, prevent parental alienation and start a more healthy kind of interaction, can allow for more open communication, flexibility and the extension of common courtesy (i.e., punctuality, neutral drop-off and pick-up locations, etc.), geared towards the longterm emotional health and social well-being of your child(ren).
Drop-offs and Pick-ups: Location, Location, Location
A child custody order provides the noncustodial parent with the opportunity to see their child(ren). A good visitation schedule clarifies when and where child exchanges will take place and whether one or both parents are responsible for travel related expenses.
If there is still animosity between you and your co-parent, one area where this tension often becomes more apparent is during child custody exchanges. Initially it may be a good idea to have a third party present as a witness or simply a presence to keep the two of you on your best behavior.
In low-conflict situations parties may agree to have the child custody exchange at the other person’s residence or any mutually convenient location, such as a public place, mall parking lot or at a designated freeway rest area. In contrast, high-conflict co-parent relationships with a history of domestic violence or a restraining order, may benefit from having designated custody exchange locations such as “curbside”, a third-party’s residence, the police station, or the child’s school, to reduce the possibility of a negative parental face-to-face interaction.
“Curbside” exchanges are ones in which one parent arrives either by car or foot, to the other parent’s residence. They wait at the curb and do not enter onto the other parent’s property. With the exception of infants, the child exits the residence and walks to meet the parent doing the pick up at the curb.
In general, locations where your child can have a snack, use the restroom, and feel secure and calm before being picked-up are vital and beneficial. Short, positive, and loving good-byes can also aid in reducing any nervousness or anxiety your child might feel.
Managing Time Related Issues of Child Custody Exchanges
In many situations the parties will agree to alternate or share the pick-up and drop-off responsibility. Having a transportation order, can potentially solidify each parent’s commitment to a positive custody exchange by requiring the drop-off parent to wait a certain amount of time (i.e., 15-20 minutes) for the other parent to show up, and would forfeit that visitation if the other parent arrives after that time frame. Although common courtesy means the tardy parent could call or text their co-parent regarding any unforeseen delays, this type of order would benefit a punctual parent from the uncertainty of waiting too long for a c0-parent who may not show.
As for dropping-off the child(ren), a basic guideline is that the agreed upon time allows the child(ren) to unwind in an unhurried manner, readjust to being home, and prepare for the next day.
Enforcing New Jersey Co-Parenting Agreements
Despite how well written your parenting-time agreement is, if your co-parent consistently violates the terms of the agreement you may need to seek court intervention to enforce or modify your child custody agreement. If you choose to file a motion with the courts accusing a former spouse of violating your parenting-time agreement, you will need to present concrete evidence of this violation, and not vague accusations.
By consulting our experienced child custody enforcement attorneys, we can help you gain a clearer understanding of your legal rights and options moving forward, and fairly resolve your parenting-time enforcement dispute prior to taking the matter to court.
What to do if my Child Refuses Visitation With Their Co-Parent?
Although the parenting-time schedule may present a new set of daily or emotional challenges for your child, it’s vital for both parents to maintain a united front and that your child knows that avoiding the other parent is not an option.
However, if you suspect your co-parent may be exposing your child to abuse, neglect or is unfit and endangering your child’s welfare due to their own drug or alcohol related substance abuse issues, you should contact your local police and an attorney who can help you file for an emergency protective order, supervised visits, and/or a change in custody it’s in the child’s best interests.
Contact Our Experienced Morris County NJ Parenting-time Attorneys Today
At Jacobs Berger, LLC our attorneys have extensive experience drafting, modifying, and enforcing child custody and parenting-time agreements of all kinds across Hanover, Randolph, Madison, Florham Park, Morris County, and throughout New Jersey.
We seek to both ensure that your individual needs, interests, and rights as a parent are properly taken into account in any parenting-time agreement or post-divorce dispute, as well as that any new agreement you enter into is fair to you, and properly accounts for you and your children’s changing situation.
To speak with our firm today regarding your specific needs or concerns regarding your child custody and parenting time agreement in a confidential case assessment, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at 973-718-7705.