Creating a Successful Visitation Plan

When your divorce or separation includes children, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is how you will arrange time with your children. Your parenting plan, also known as custody or visitation, should revolve around the specific needs, challenges and opportunities of your family.

 

Whether or not you and your ex can sit down and work out a parenting plan together, or you need to work with a mediator, here are some important considerations for mapping out a successful plan:

 

Different Kinds of Time to Consider

When you are creating a parenting plan it is recommended that you think about the different kinds of time you spend with your children. For example:

 

  • Regular at-home time (meals, homework, chores)
  • Overnights
  • Outside activities spent together (sports, shopping, visiting relatives)
  • Holidays and special days
  • Time the children spend away from both parents (school, friends’ homes)

 

No matter how much time each parent spends with the child, it should include these kinds of activities.

 

Also, consider how much input the children should have. Parents need to make decisions for young children, but teens might feel more empowered if they are able to have some input.

 

Age-Appropriate Planning

How should normal every-day time with each parent be split? With the assumption that there aren’t any safety issues in either home, the answer depends largely on two factors. First, your family’s unique needs and second, the development stage of your children.

 

First take into consideration the logistics, your work schedules, your children’s activities, how you’ll arrange pick-ups and drop offs and any childcare arrangements. Can the child get to school from both parents’ house? Also take into consideration the emotional aspects, how well your child can adapt to transitions, how well siblings get along with each other and other family members and how well you are able to communicate with your ex. Having an understanding of what works for your unique situation will help create a plan that works best for your family.

 

Next, take into consideration your child’s development stage, are they very young or older? How much attention do they need and how much transition can they handle?

 

Babies and young children need more attention and structure. Infants need frequent physical contact with each parent, as well as a predictable schedule. Toddlers still need frequent contact, but have more awareness of others, so sibling relationships may also be important to them. A plan for a family with infants or toddlers may involve 3 or 4 changes a week (2 days or so at each home, or for one parent to take the children out for a few hours while they are staying with the other parent).

 

Older children may be more flexible. By the time children reach elementary school age, they can spend a few more days with each parent, and can use other types of contact (phone, computer, etc.) to stay connected. A plan for adolescents, may involve the children spending a week with each parent. This is a time when they are exploring relationships with peers, so they need their parents to catch them when they fall. However, a plan for teens may involve the children spending a week with each parent.

 

Dividing the Holidays

Holiday planning doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow some simple steps. When a holiday is important to both families, parents sometimes alternate, so the children spend Christmas with Dad during even years, and Mom during odd years. Or, if parents spend holidays close to each other, they may split the holiday itself, so the children spend the morning with one parent and the evening with the other. Still in some families, it may work for the parents to spend time with the children together.

 

Summer Vacation

How long do you each want to have your children during the summer? Do you take vacations or travel? What kinds of activities are your children in during the summer? Parents often want to keep things as normal as possible, so this is a place where you might want to create a plan that takes your children’s schedules into account.

 

Other Considerations

How well do you and your ex get along? How well is your communication? In a perfect world we all want to think that we are able to do whats in the best interest of the child and work out an agreement that benefits them first and foremost and allows fair parenting time for both parents.

 

However, even though we can start out with the best intentions in mind, divorce is a very emotionally charged experience that can breakdown good intentions along the way. It is for this reason that you need to make sure your agreement is recorded and protected by a professional outside party who will look out for your needs and rights.
At the New Jersey Family Law Firm of Attorney Santo V. Artusa we have spent years protecting the rights of New Jersey parents going through the same situation you are. Our professional team focuses on providing top quality legal representation, with our client’s best interests’ our top priority.

Interfering With New Jersey Child Visitation Rights

Sometimes after a divorce, parents unfortunately have trouble following agreements or court orders in regards to child custody and visitation. When one parent interferes with the other parent’s visitation, it can lead to frustration, turmoil and serious legal consequences.

 

New Jersey Child Custody and Visitation

When the parents of minor children decide to end their relationship and separate or divorce, they usually end up with child custody orders. Child custody includes legal custody, which refers to a parent’s authority to participate in major decisions regarding a child’s health, education, or general welfare. Physical custody, refers to the child’s actual presence with a parent.

 

Joint legal custody is when the parents share major parenting decisions, while joint physical custody means that the children live with each parent for nearly equal amounts of time. New Jersey courts commonly order joint legal custody, however, they generally order joint physical custody only when the parents are both committed to the idea of shared parenting.

 

New Jersey law no longer uses the term “visitation,” but if a child spends more than 72% of their time with one parent, the court will designate that parent as the “primary parent of residence” (PPR) and the other parent as the “parent of alternate residence” (PAR). In more traditional terms, the PPR has physical custody, and the PAR has visitation.

 

Violating New Jersey Custody and Visitation Orders

Interference can be anything that inhibits the relationship between the child and the other parent, including but not only extreme behavior, such as preventing contact entirely, but also things like intercepting letters or emails, blocking phone calls or continually scheduling children’s activities away from home during the other parent’s normal visitation time.

 

While courts encourage parents to remain in touch with children during separations, behavior such as telephoning constantly or dropping by the other parent’s home uninvited is considered disruptive. Interference also includes speaking negatively about the other parent to the child or within the child’s presence, since this can reduce the child’s desire to spend time with the other parent.

 

Denying Visitation or Withholding Child Support

Occasionally, a parent who isn’t receiving timely child support payments feels entitled to prevent the paying parent from seeing the children. Parents need to understand that child custody and child support are two completely separate issues. A parent who hasn’t received support in a timely manner can go to court to enforce payments, but should never use the children as bargaining chips. Likewise, if one parent is blocking access to the children, the other parent needs to seek help from the courts, not withhold child support.

 

Children Refuse to Visit

Parents have an obligation to encourage children to spend time with the other parent, but courts rarely oversee this. While a court can order a parent to transport a young child to the other parent’s home or mutually designated location, older children become less transportable and more difficult to manage.

 

A judge who believes that a child is not spending time with one parent because of the actions of the other will not attempt to force the child to see both parents, but could instead change the primary residential parent. A court will only order this change, however, if it finds that it’s in the child’s best interests.

 

Parent Consistently Missing Visitation

Failing to arrive for scheduled visitation times or constantly arriving late is not in the child’s best interests. Children need to know that their parents care enough to make consistent efforts to spend time with them. Parents who don’t fulfill this responsibility may lose future visitation time with their children.

 

Consequences of Interference with Custody or Visitation

If a parent violates a court regarding custody or parenting time, a New Jersey court can order almost any remedy that is fair and appropriate, including holding the parent in contempt. Other possible actions can include:

 

  • Ordering “make-up” parenting time.
  • Ordering the interfering parent to pay for counseling for the children or for the other parent.
  • Ordering the interfering parent to pay any costs resulting from the interference.
  • Changing the children’s transportation arrangements or pick-up location.
  • Changing parenting time either temporarily or permanently.
  • Ordering the interfering parent to participate in community service.
  • Ordering the arrest and imprisonment of the interfering parent.

 

Interfering with court-ordered parenting time can amount to a criminal act under New Jersey law. A parent who conceals a child from the other parent for the purpose of interfering with custody or visitation may serve jail time.


The professionals at Artusa can help you with your parenting time order, making sure your rights are protected and obtain an outcome that is in your best interest and the best interest of your child.

Relocating Out of State with Children During or After a New Jersey Divorce

During a divorce, most parents have trouble agreeing on the best way to divide the time with their children. The challenges multiply when one parent decides to move a considerable distance from the other parent’s home.

 

New Jersey Child Custody and Visitation

Child custody includes both legal custody, which refers to a parent’s authority to participate in major decisions regarding a child’s health, education and general welfare. Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child lives with. Joint legal custody means that both parents share major parenting decisions and joint physical custody means that the children live with each parent for equal amounts of time through the year.

 

New Jersey courts base custody decisions primarily on the child’s best interests and the courts assume that children benefit from having two involved parents. Joint legal custody is common, however, a court will generally order joint physical custody only when both parents are strongly committed to shared parenting.

 

Moving

Even the best laid parenting plans can become chaotic when one parent needs to move a long distance from the other parent’s home. New Jersey law requires the parent of a minor child that was born in, or has lived in, the state for at least five years, to get permission from the other parent or the courts before moving the child out of state. A move within the state will also require permission if it’s far enough away to require a change in an agreed-upon or court-ordered parenting plan. Unless the other parent signs a consent order, the parent who wants to move with the child will have to file a motion in superior court.

 

As our society becomes increasingly mobile, it is more common for families to relocate. At the same time, advances in technology have made it easier for parents to keep in touch with children at a distance. Due to these changing circumstances, courts in many states, including New Jersey, will allow a custodial parent to relocate with children in most situations. The decision will hinge on several factors. The most critical factor will be the kind of parenting arrangement currently in effect.

 

No Custody Order in Effect

If there is no current custody order, a parent who lives with a child can ordinarily take the child on a short trip away from home without worrying about obtaining the court’s permission. However, any parent who takes a child out of state against the other parent’s wishes risks losing rights in any eventual custody determination.

 

There are exceptions, such as domestic violence or child abuse, which can justify such conduct, but these are rare. If your child has left home with the other parent and you suspect that the parent is not planning to return, call the offices of Artusa Family Law Firm as soon as possible to protect your child and your relationship with your child. You may want to obtain a temporary custody order from the court. In an extreme case, you can pursue parental kidnapping charges.

 

Sole or Primary Physical Custody

A parent with sole or primary physical custody has only to show that a proposed move is in “good faith”. This means the move isn’t motivated by a desire to interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights and that the move won’t harm the child. Some acceptable reasons include a new job or better job prospects, a spouse’s job change, or being closer to relatives.

 

The parent who is moving must also show that the child will have health, educational and recreational opportunities in the new location that are at least comparable to their current opportunities, and they must propose a realistic and specific visitation plan that will allow the child frequent contact with the non-custodial parent.

 

Under a typical plan, a child would spend school holidays and most of summer vacation with the non-custodial parent. The plan should also include a reasonable transportation plan and specify ways that the child could stay in touch with the non-custodial parent, such as unlimited phone calls, e-mails and text or video-messaging.

 

In addition to these factors, the court may consider any additional, relevant factors in deciding whether the move would harm the child which may include:

 

  • Whether the child has any special talents or needs that require accommodations, and whether such accommodations exist in the new location.
  • The likelihood that the custodial parent will encourage a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
  • The move’s potential impact on extended family relationships.
  • The child’s preferences (if the child is of sufficient age and maturity).
  • Whether the child is entering the senior year of high school.
  • Whether the non-custodial parent might be able to relocate.

 

Joint Legal and Physical Custody

New Jersey courts apply a different standard in cases of true joint custody. This type of custody will trigger a deeper level of review because it isn’t only considered custody “on paper,” or for purposes such as child support calculations, but rather actual joint custody that includes equal or nearly equal parenting time and an equal division of day-to-day parenting responsibilities.

 

If the objecting parent proves that this type of custody arrangement exists, the court will approach the case as a request for modification of custody due to a change in circumstances. The court will hold a full hearing on the best interests of the child and appoint one of the parents as the primary custodial parent. The child will then live with the primary custodian, whether that is the moving parent or the parent who isn’t.

 

Move-away disputes are usually time consuming and expensive. It’s in your child’s and your best interest to contact the family law attorneys at Artusa Family Law Firm in Jersey City. We will make sure your rights are preserved and that an outcome that is in the best interest of both you and your child is reached. The award winning Artusa Law Firm covers all of Northern New Jersey and we can help you.