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Do the courts consider a parent’s sex in custody decisions?

There’s an idea in our society in custody disputes that the courts will favor a child’s mother more often. Unless this is the wish of you and your family, a court will take many factors when making their decision. None of these factors listed include the sex of the parent.

The reality is that what a court ruled in your neighbor or coworker’s custody case won’t necessarily be the same thing. Their family likely had their own unique factors that led to the creation of their own unique agreement. Your custody agreement should also be as unique as your family.

Holiday season challenges of child custody and parenting time

With proper planning, divorced parents in New Jersey and across the country can make sure that the holiday season remains "the most wonderful time of the year," just like the classic Andy Williams song from 1963. The first step would be to check the most recent child custody court order to be clear which parent is scheduled to have the children, and when. Changes can be made by agreement, but it's best to plan ahead. Discussing holiday plans with the other parent is best done well in advance, and involving the children in the planning -- at least to some extent -- can help them to adjust to the new family dynamics.

Posting a calendar with notes to remind the kids of the arrangements is a good idea. For many families, the holidays are the only time when children can spend time with aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family members. However, working them into the plans may be impossible, which makes being flexible crucial. Fostering the bonds between the children and family members of both sides will typically be in the best interests of the children.

Online divorce might not be as easy as promised

Times have changed, and the list of services available online is endless. However, in some cases, DIY is not necessarily easier or cheaper. For anyone in New Jersey who is thinking about navigating a divorce through an online service, it might be a good idea to first gain an understanding of the intricacies of the process and the pros and cons of going that route. It's important to consider these issues carefully because even an online divorce can have financial consequences.

Sometimes, what starts as an uncontested divorce can become contentious down the road. While the online service might imply that it is merely a process of filling out the appropriate forms to file with the court, it is seldom that clear-cut. Issues typically arise when it comes to matters related to child custody, and in many cases, even pet custody is an issue. Also, if the spouses agree to share custody of the children, agreeing on which parent will have the children when could lead to arguments.

Child custody or guardianship: Grandparents raising grandchildren

More and more grandparents in New Jersey and elsewhere take on the raising of their grandchildren. In many cases, grandparents take over when parents are no longer able to care for the children. This is often the result of substance or alcohol abuse or other matters. Because parents retain child custody, the only way grandparents have to prevent them from taking the children back is to petition the court for guardianship.

Obtaining guardianship does not always give the grandparents sole rights to the children. The court could allow parents visitation time, and order the parents to pay child support to the grandparents. However, in many cases that involve incarcerated or substance-addicted parents, there is no money available to pay support.

Child custody and modern single fatherhood

Mothers are traditionally considered to be the primary nurturers and caretakers of their children. Modern parenthood is changing that. Fathers today spend more time tending to childcare, housework and homework than they did a half-century ago. Many family structures are transforming due to the change in parental involvement.

The increasing rate of parental divorce and separation have parents re-envisioning family life and the work of continuing to raise kids together. Now more than ever, fathers are seeking equitable custody arrangements, so that they can be more present in their children's lives. Even if you're an active father involved in caretaking and addressing the emotional needs of your children, you may feel like you are facing an uphill battle when it comes to custody issues.

Does remarriage affect child support obligations?

A New Jersey who remarries may have questions about how it would affect financial obligations to children from a previous marriage. Existing child support orders are typically not affected by a new marriage. Child support is based on the incomes of the child's biological parents, and the new spouse's income plays no role in child support calculations.

A new spouse might be concerned that he or she might become responsible for back child support owed by his or her partner. However, only the income of the parent subject to the child support order can be garnished. The wages of the new spouse cannot be touched for the purpose of enforcing the child support obligations of the other spouse.

The value of a postnup in the division of assets and property

Many marriages in New Jersey are between people who may have already been married before, and they enter into new unions with significant assets already accumulated. If the spouses do not sign prenuptial agreements, the division of assets and property in the event of another divorce could become a contentious affair. Under some circumstances, a postnuptial agreement is recommended to avoid this,

A postnuptial agreement is a legal contract that a married couple signs after the date of their wedding. Although postnups typically deal with financial issues, they can include issues like household chore responsibilities, expectations of faithfulness and more. Postnups are most effective for couples where one or both spouses entered the marriage with significant assets or when one of them expects an inheritance.

FYI: Divorce is about parents -- child custody is about children

In most divorce cases that involve couples with children in New Jersey, the courts prefer to award both parents as the caretakers and guardians of the children. The court can distinguish between legal and physical child custody. Shared legal custody allows both parents equal roles in matters relating to the child's religion, academics and activities. Parents who share physical custody must work together in establishing a schedule that will divide the time the child spends with each parent.

Working out the logistics and coordinating schedules could be challenging, especially when those who are collaborating got divorced because they could not stand each other. Advisers provide some tips to achieve this without too much contention. They remind parents that joint custody is not about them but about the children -- the divorce is all about the parents. They all agree that parents should never speak poorly about each other with the children.

Division of assets and property when unmarried couples split

Common law marriages are not legal in New Jersey, although many couples in long-term relationships choose not to get married. These relationships can work well, but if unmarried couples split after years of acquiring assets and having children together, the division of assets and property could be a challenging process. There are no rules or legal requirements for ending a cohabitation arrangement, making it less costly and time-consuming -- but not always less traumatic. Contention may arise because of the lack of laws to govern the fair division of property.

Couples in cohabitation relationships do not have any obligations when it comes to supporting each other after splitting, and that could bring hardship if one partner became used to being supported by the other. One way to prevent that is for the couple to draft a cohabitation agreement. Another disadvantage of not tying the knot is the fact that, absent a formal authoritzation, one partner will have no rights to make decisions on behalf of the other partner in the event of an illness or if he or she becomes debilitated. Such matters will be the responsibility of the the individual's immediate family members.

Social media matters to custody and parental rights

You’ve probably heard news stories about people whose personal social media activity has negatively affected their public and professional lives. Probably, you seen them through your own social media accounts. But what you post, tweet, like and text can also be admissible as evidence during custody and parental rights hearings.

In family law court, the judge considers what’s best for the child. The judge looks at information that can help the court decide if one or the other member of the couple, as custodial parent, could provide a stable home life and if the parent has the financial means and emotional maturity to provide a supportive and caring environment.

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