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.
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.
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.
Many children are born to unmarried parents in New Jersey and across the country. This could lead to questions about child custody. If paternity is formally established, the fact that the child's parents are not married makes no difference under the law. However, if both parents did not sign an acknowledgment of paternity, the father's name will not be on the child's birth certificate, and the mother will have no right to child support without first proving paternity.
Family courts in New Jersey favor arrangements in which children will continue to benefit from loving relationships with both parents after a divorce. However, the judge will likely have several concerns to ensure the final child custody order protect the best interests of the child. These issues will likely be addressed at a child custody hearing.
Child-related decisions in family courts nationwide, including New Jersey are based on the best interests of the child. Judges look at various factors when they consider child custody arrangements. The first consideration will be the mental and physical health of the parent seeking custody, along with his or her ability to meet the child's emotional and physical needs. Included are shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care -- to be provided with loving care, support and parental guidance.
Statistics show that grandparents in New Jersey and other states take care of as many as one in every ten children. This could be a significant challenge to grandparents who have not taken steps to formalize their statuses as care providers. Several legal options are available, including adoption and petitioning the court for child custody or guardianship. The latter is said to give the grandparents the legal rights they need to care for the child without going through the adoption process.
More and more people nationwide, including in New Jersey, choose not to marry. A significant percentage of children are born out of wedlock, and while many couples parent those children in the same way that married parents would do, there are cases in which there are absent fathers. If a child is born and the birth certificate indicates no father, the mother might have questions about her legal child custody rights.
Divorce is typically an unpleasant, and usually a traumatic experience for all concerned, even more so if there are children involved. Courts nationwide, including New Jersey, base child custody decisions on the best interests of the children, and negotiating agreements with that in mind is often an emotional and time-consuming process. Former power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt finally came to a child custody agreement after two years of litigation.