When attempting to work out a custody agreement with your former spouse, it’s best to start with an understanding of the basics. First, there are two types of custody – physical and legal. As you work through your divorce, you will need to determine both the legal and physical custody arrangements that are most appropriate for your family. With regard to legal custody, your options are either sole legal custody or joint legal custody. Sole legal custody means that only one party will have the right to make decisions for the children of the marriage, while joint legal custody means that both parents will continue to make decisions regarding the children’s health, education, and well-being, despite being divorced. Sole legal custody is very rare in New Jersey, and that is because the Court favors children continuing to have a relationship with both parents post-divorce. The Court believes that, by the parties sharing joint legal custody, they will continue to foster a relationship and work together for the best interest of the children.
You will also have to reach an agreement with regard to physical custody. Physical custody can take on many forms, including the old “traditional” parenting time arrangement of alternating weekends from Friday to Sunday. Recently, however, there has been a trend toward parties agreeing to share joint physical custody. A true “joint physical” custody arrangement is when the parties share the children on a 50/50 basis. This can be done either by having a week on/week off arrangement, or by coming up with a more creative schedule that accomplishes that goal. Every family is different, and you and your spouse are in the best position to determine what arrangement will work best for your family.
If you have children and have filed for divorce, the court will schedule you and your spouse to attend parenting time mediation through the court. This is a program that is intended to give litigants a free opportunity to resolve the custody and parenting time issues early on in the case. You and your spouse can agree at any point during your divorce process that you have reached a resolution of your custody and parenting time issues and then enter into an order, which describes exactly what your agreement might be. In some instances, the parties may not be able to reach an agreement, and they may need to undergo a custody evaluation with a professional who will render an opinion as to what parenting time schedule they believe will be in the children’s best interest. This expert report can be utilized at the time of trial, in the event that you are unable to resolve your matter.
If you have questions about physical and legal custody issues, contact the attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge to schedule a consultation.