Visitation/Parenting Time

In the case of M.C. v. P.C. (unreported, non-precedential), Judge Jones explores the issues surrounding mid-week overnight parenting time during the school year and its effect on the best interests of the children. In many cases, both parents live close by and are routinely exercising parenting time on weekdays in addition to weekends. While frequent and continuing contact with both parents is almost always positive for the child, it does not come without issue in the post-divorce context. We frequently see cases where one parent refuses to complete homework or take the child to soccer practice during their weekday parenting time.

The facts of this case are simple. The parents have two children, ages 8 and 10. As part of their divorce agreement, one parent was the primary residential custodial parent with the other parent having reasonable and liberal parenting time, to include every Thursday evening overnight into Friday mornings.

The primary parent, who works in the children’s school (but is not their teacher) filed an application to modify midweek overnight parenting time asserting that the children often come to school unprepared on Friday mornings and without their homework completed. It was alleged that the primary parent then has to rush around on Friday mornings assisting the children with completing their assignments before school formally begins. The noncustodial parent obviously denies same, however the Court noted that neither party produced any corroborating evidence so the Court was forced to rely upon the parties own testimonial positions.

In its analysis, the Court took “judicial notice” (meaning something is so well known it cannot be reasonably doubted) that education is one of the most important aspects of a young child’s life. The Court noted that children “need to learn from both parents, as early as possible, that tending to homework, test preparation and general scholastic readiness must take an appropriately high priority in a child’s schedule”.

That said, even in the cases where the parents are entirely cooperative, when the children go back and forth between households, this creates another layer of difficulty in trying to implement these fundamental educational values and maintain consistency. The Court opined while it is conceivable that back and forth parenting time could cause a child to incur a significant distribution and a loss of appropriate focus on meeting scholastic responsibilities, it is not per se harmful or contrary to a child’s best interests. As with many issues that arise in a family law matter, it is fact-sensitive and case specific given that each family and child is unique.

The Court goes on to remind that:
“Shared parenting” means more than simply counting the hours and minutes a child stays under a parent’s roof but also involves each parent meeting his or her responsibilities during such a time rather than unilaterally passing it off onto the other parent. Put another way, a parent cannot insist on simply taking the children for parenting time while siphoning out the parenting obligations which naturally continue to exist during such times. If a parent wants midweek overnight parenting time during a school year, that comes with all of the scholastic responsibility and other midweek obligations, in one integrated package.

The Court noted that although the primary parent’s testimony was persuasive there were evidentiary obstacles insofar as how prevalent the deficiencies that were complained of really were. Was this a situation where the child only missed 1 out of 10 assignments or a situation where the child’s backpack was not even opened with nothing done at all? The Court noted that evidence could have been presented by school records, testimony from teachers, lower test scores or any other evidence of the children’s lack of readiness on Fridays, as compared with other days when the children are in the care of the primary parent.

In sum, the Court found that there was insufficient evidence to make a specific finding that the homework issue was so prevalent as to require an immediate elimination of midweek overnight parenting time but established a helpful protocol for the parties moving forward as to how to deal with the issue of homework.

What can be taken away from this is case is how important it is to be fully prepared when presenting your application to the Court. Had the primary parent produced more corroborating evidence as to the magnitude of the missed assignments (assuming it was substantial), the outcome may have been different. It is always important to seek the advice of experienced counsel when presenting any application (especially an application to modify an existing arrangement/order) to the Court.

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Lauren K. Beaver is a contributor to the New Jersey Family Law Blog and an attorney in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Lauren practices out of the firm’s Princeton, New Jersey office representing clients on issues relating to divorce, support, equitable distribution, custody, and parenting time. Lauren also offers mediation services to those looking to procure a more amicable divorce. Lauren can be reached at (609) 844-3027 or lbeaver@foxrothschild.com.

An article today on Time’s website discussed the findings of a study comparing the behavioral trends of children of divorce from wealthy and lower income families.   The study, which was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, divided a sample of approximately 4,000 children into three groups by income.  Interestingly, the study also analyzed at what age children are most prone to behavioral issues following divorce.

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The report ultimately concluded that children of divorce from higher-income families exhibit greater behavioral issues than those of lower-income families, with the most likely group affected being that of the 3-5 year old age range.   Separately, custody-based research often finds that, barring other potential issues, children are better equipped to handle an equal, shared parenting arrangement as they get older.  The possible reasons for such signs seem to be more speculative than anything else – for instance, “dads, who are usually the breadwinners, often move out of the home so there’s a big dip in household income. Or it could be that the kids have to move to a new neighborhood/school/friend group and the instability takes a toll. Or maybe less-wealthy families don’t take it so hard.”  Notably, however, there was no definitive answer for such results, noting that income differences alone could not be the cause.  For lower-income families, one researcher noted that the quality of the home environment mattered most to “social and emotional well-being.”

Also interesting was the study’s conclusion that parental separation had no impact on kids ages 6 to 12.  As a threshold matter, 6 to 12 is a very large age range and, notably, the study does not seem to parse out exceptions, instead making a blanket statement that there was no impact.  Improvements in behavior were found in those wealthier children – older than age 6 – who assimilated into stepfamilies.  While the article does not delve further, perhaps this is because of the structure provided by a stepfamily unit.  This, perhaps, is also the basis for why children of married couples were found to be more impacted, or exhibit greater behavioral issues, than those of cohabiting parents.

Whether you as a parent need to take additional steps to address such behavioral issues depends on the given set of circumstances and, most importantly, your particular child.  Providing your child with love and support, and always telling them as much, is fundamental to being a parent.  Perhaps the issues, however, are merely a temporary adjustment to the end of the family unit that your child once knew.  Perhaps your child is just getting older and exhibiting signs that, ultimately, have nothing to do with the divorce at all.  Maybe there are issues at school with friends or teachers, or some degree of anxiety caused by another factor not previously considered.

Working with your former spouse to determine the best course of action for your child is ideal, putting aside differences between you for your child’s long-term benefit.  While not all parents agree to a therapeutic route, especially for younger children, it may be the most appropriate path.  There are many different types of therapy that can address a child’s behavioral issues, depending on the specific facts at issue.  For instance, if your child is acting out because he does not want to see your former spouse, or perhaps his relationship with your former spouse is truly damaged and in need of structured, therapeutic repair, a reunification therapist may be appropriate.  Perhaps the behavioral issues result from how you and your former spouse interact with each other.  With the emotional toll of the divorce now behind you, can you work together for the best interests of your children?  Maybe family therapy is needed, or maybe even just therapy for the divorced parents to learn how to work better together.  While sitting in a room with your former spouse may seem less than ideal, the positive impacts that may befall upon your kids could be invaluable and long-lasting.

THE TAKEAWAY

The results of this study are very interesting, especially when considered on the heels of my most recent post discussing divorce and income inequality.  Should your child exhibit behavioral issues after the divorce (or, perhaps, even during the divorce), it is critical that you take appropriate steps, preferably with your former spouse, to ensure that the child’s best interests are served both in the short and long-term.

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Robert A. EpsteinRobert Epstein is a partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office and can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or repstein@foxrothschild.com.

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Highly acrimonious custody disputes abound for countless reasons, many of which are tied to the specific facts and circumstances of a given case.  A determination of the most appropriate custody arrangement (joint or shared legal and residential custody) and parenting time schedule can be a difficult process, especially when multiple custody evaluators are retained to render his or her own recommendations as to what is in the best interests of the child – the governing standard relied on by family judges.  Ultimately, the goal espoused by the New Jersey legislature through its governing laws is to ensure that each parent enjoys a relationship with the child that is in that child’s best interests.

parents and kid

Following that line of reasoning, the Appellate Division in S.M. v. K.M.a recently published (precedential) decision, reversed a trial court decision denying a father any contact with his two children until criminal charges against him were resolved.  The Appellate Division also remanded to the trial court for a hearing involving the prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and family lawyers, to address the issue of parenting time while criminal charges are pending.  While the specific facts of the case are interesting, it is the Court’s broader statements that merit greater attention in their application to many of the custody disputes that we encounter – especially when allegations of alienation or, more simply, a lack of enforcement to address parenting time violations are involved.

As the factual and procedural history is long and complicated, I provide a brief breakdown of the highlights.  In November 2011, Dad was served with a temporary restraining order based on allegations that he was abusive to one of the kids and to Mom.  As the allegations involved Dad’s use of weapons, the police went to the home and discovered a legally registered handgun.  Also discovered, however, were illegal hollow point bullets, which led to Dad being charged with a weapons offense.  Shortly thereafter, Dad filed a complaint for divorce and a January, 2012 order reflected the parties’ consent to Mom retaining temporary custody of the children and Dad being prohibited from any form of contact with Mom.  Mom voluntarily dismissed her restraining order.  Importantly, the order also provided that Dad “shall have visitation with the minor children of the marriage in accordance with the dictates of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and/or the Court[.]”  A custody expert was appointed, and Dad consented to undergoing a drug and alcohol assessment.  Shortly thereafter, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) issued a letter concluding that the allegations of abuse against Steve were substantiated, but it took no further action.

The custody expert’s report conveyed that the situation largely involved he said/she said allegations between Mom and Dad.  Notably, the report conveyed Mom’s statement that the children wanted no relationship with Dad, and were “traumatized and fearful of him.”  Mom also expressed how it would not be in the kids’ best interests to even have supervised parenting time with Dad.  Telling of Mom’s potential involvement of the children in the litigation, the children, when meeting with the expert, referred to their opinions of their relationship with Dad as “we.”  The expert noted, as a result, that it was difficult to tell if the children were expressing their own views, or those shared by Mom.  The report’s concluding sentiment was that the goal for the family was for the children to have a positive relationship with Dad.  As a result, he recommended that the kids see a therapist or counselor with expertise in “high conflict divorce cases”, and that Dad should join the sessions once the children develop a rapport with the counselor.  Depending on how those sessions went would then help guide next steps in the relationship.

Shortly thereafter, the criminal judge maintained the “no contact” condition of Dad’s bail, explaining that he would follow the family judge’s ruling on the issue.  The family judge then denied Dad’s request for “therapeutic visitation”, finding that it would be contrary to the children’s best interests.  Approximately two months later, in November, 2012, Dad was indicted for second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, second degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and fourth degree aggravated assault.

In March, 2013, the substance evaluator determined that Dad was a “consistent blackout drinker to a degree much greater than he is aware and/or willing to admit.”  Among other recommendations, the expert agreed with the custody expert’s parenting time recommendations.  The following month, Dad again filed a motion for therapeutic visitation with the children, certifying therein that he had not seen the kids since November 2011 – almost a year and a half earlier.  Dad added that he would undergo therapy and that he should have parenting time in accordance with the experts’ recommendations.  The family judge, however, denied Dad any contact with the kids – and decided as much without any oral argument on Dad’s motion, which is pretty astonishing considering the issues that were before the court.  The only reason given in the written decision for denying contact was that “the Court is not convinced that granting Plaintiff’s request for supervised therapeutic visitation would be in the best interest of the children during the pendency of the criminal proceedings against plaintiff.”

While motions for leave to appeal are often not granted during a divorce proceeding, the issues here were of such an emergent nature that the Appellate Division granted Dad’s application.  In its decision, the Appellate Division reasoned that such relief was appropriate:

because depriving children of all contact with their father is an extreme measure that, if improperly imposed and maintained for a lengthy period of time, could cause severe injury to the children.

The importance of preserving the parent/child bond came through loud and clear in the Court’s decision:

Not only do parents have a constitutional right to enjoy a relationship with their children, In Re Guardianship of K.H.O., 161 N.J. 337, 346 (1999), children likewise have the right to visit with their parents after they have been removed from the parent’s home. N.J.S.A. 9:6B-4A(e). This is so even if the children verbalize a desire not to see the parent, as happened here.  The Children’s Bill of Rights states that a child has the right “to visit with [his or her] parents or legal guardians . . .” or to “otherwise maintain contact with [his or her] parents or legal guardian. . . .” Ibid. A child’s best interests are generally fostered when both parents are involved with the child, assuring the child of frequent and continuing contact with both parties. Finamore v. Aronson, 382 N.J. Super. 514, 523 (App. Div. 2006).

Relying upon such precedent, the dictates of Rules 5:12-6 and 3:26-1(b) (addressing a family judge’s authority to restrict contact between a parent and child while a criminal part “no contact” order is in place as a condition of bail), and directives issued by the Administrative Office of the Courts (designed to protect victims of domestic violence while ensuring the effective handling of situations where there exists both a pending child protective services action and a criminal complaint against a parent), the Appellate Division noted that the family judge failed to properly include the prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in a hearing to determine whether and what type of parenting time is appropriate for the accused parent.  On remand, the judge was also required to determine if such a hearing was necessary, since, apparently, neither parent requested such relief, or whether oral argument, alone, would suffice.

While the facts and circumstances of this precedential decision are tied, in great part, to the criminal issues and related procedures, the Court’s intent on ensuring the preservation of a child’s relationship with both parents is telling of how carefully it will scrutinize a situation such as this to ensure that the best interests of the children are being properly served and appropriately determined.

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Robert Epstein is an associate in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office and can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or repstein@foxrothschild.com.

Earlier this year, we blogged about  of our colleague, Aaron Weems’ post on our firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law Blog, which advised that any recommendations by a parent coordinator would be given a de novo review by a court.  A de novo review means that the Court is taking a completely fresh look at the issue and is not obligated to make or accept the same conclusions, interpretations, or issue the same Order as the prior level did (in this case, the Parent Coordinator); their job is to look at all of the information as though it is brand new to everyone and reach a decision based on the evidence presented.

This week, Aaron posted a piece entitled New Rule: No Parent Coordinators Allowed on that blog.  Aaron advises that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court enacted a new rule that stated:

Only judges may make decisions in child custody cases. Masters and hearing officers may make recommendations to the court. Courts shall not appoint any other individual to make decisions or recommendations or alter a custody order in child custody cases. Any order appointing a parenting coordinator shall be deemed vacated on the date this rule becomes effective (Editor’s Note: May 23, 2013)….

Aaron noted that this ended the quasi-judicial role of parent coordinators.  He also wondered whether this would result in increased enforcement and modification proceedings. 

As I noted when commenting on Aaron’s prior post regarding the de novo review:

Isn’t that was it supposed to happen in NJ? Under the now defunct Parent Coordination Pilot Program which we have blogged on many times in the past, recommendations of a parent coordinator, if accepted, were to immediately become a court order. However, either of both parties objected, either or both could bring the matter to the court for review. That said, it really wasn’t a de novo review because the court would have the recommendation made by the parent coordinator. All too often, thought the judge is not supposed to defer to the parent coordinator, this is exactly what happened, 

So bravo to Pennsylvania for requiring a true de novo review, where judicial authority is not abdicated to a third party and evidence is actually considered. On the other hand, a malevolent party will object to every recommendation, totally vitiating the purpose of a parent coordinator in the first place, and causing the other party to incur fees, first for the parent coordination and then for the inevitable subsequent litigation.

As I blogged previously, New Jersey, while ending the pilot program, does not preclude the appointment of parent coordinators.  If courts defer blindly to the recommendations of parent coordinators, without thoroughly reviewing the issues, will New Jersey be next to totally bar their use? 

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

Yesterday, my post on this blog was called "Alimony – Back to Basics."  Just like with alimony, over the years, we have had dozens of posts on this blog about custody and parenting issues.  However, just like with alimony, there are statutory factors that the court, as well as the custody experts, must consider when making decisions (for judges) or recommendations (for experts) related to custody and parenting time.

The following is a refresher on the custody factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 that must be considered:

1. the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;

2. the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;

3. the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;

4. the history of domestic violence, if any;

5. the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;

6. the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;

7. the needs of the child;

8. the stability of the home environment offered;

9. the quality and continuity of the child’s education;

10. the fitness of the parents;

11. the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;

12. the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;

13. the parents’ employment responsibilities;

14. and the age and number of the children.

These factors are not all inclusive but represent the minimum of what must be considered.  After you decide that you wish to seek custody (or perhaps before you decide to jump into that battle) you should go down each of these factors and review, as objectively as possible, how they would apply to your case.

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

Aaron Weems is an attorney in our Blue Bell (Montgomery County), Pennsylvania office and editor of the firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law Blog wrote an excellent post entitled "Trial Court Must Conduct De Novo Hearings on Parent Coordination Appeals."  As Aaron notes:

 A de novo review means that the Court is taking a completely fresh look at the issue and is not obligated to make or accept the same conclusions, interpretations, or issue the same Order as the prior level did (in this case, the Parent Coordinator); their job is to look at all of the information as though it is brand new to everyone and reach a decision based on the evidence presented.

Isn’t that was it supposed to happen in NJ?  Under the now defunct Parent Coordination Pilot Program which we have blogged on many times in the past, recommendations of a parent coordinator, if accepted, were to immediately become a court order. However, either of both parties objected, either or both could bring the matter to the court for review.  That said, it really wasn’t a de novo review because the court would have the recommendation made by the parent coordinator.  All too often, thought the judge is not supposed to defer to the parent coordinator, this is exactly what happened. 

So bravo to Pennsylvania for requiring a true de novo review, where judicial authority is not abdicated to a third party and evidence is actually considered.  On the other hand, a malevolent party will object to every recommendation, totally vitiating the purpose of a parent coordinator in the first place, and causing the other party to incur fees, first for the parent coordination and then for the inevitable subsequent litigation.

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

Yesterday, Judge Grant, the Acting Administrative Director of the Courts, announced that effective November 26, 2012, the Parenting Coordinator Pilot Program would be ending. The notice further provides that judges may still appoint parenting coordinators (PCs) and even provides model, but not mandatory, Orders for the their appointment. 

To those who oppose the use parenting coordinators, they may see this announcement as a victory of sorts.  However, I would not start jumping for joy, right away.  The good thing about the pilot program is that there were at least published guidelines approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court that could be followed.  In fact, as I wrote on this blog in September of this year we learned from the Milne v. Goldenberg reported decision that even in non-pilot program counties, if a PC was appointed, the Pilot Program guidelines had to be followed.  Query how this provision of the Milne case jibes with the above announcement but only time will tell.

If the Guidelines don’t apply, are we going to return to a wild west environment like we had before the Guidelines?  In fact, I blogged about the pre-Guidelines madness all the way back in 2008.  As I noted then, over the years, judges began to make numerous appointments to attempt to, if not rid the courts, at least create a buffer for parenting and visitation issues that arose daily/weekly/monthly in high conflict divorce and post-divorce matters. Sometimes the professional was called a parent coordinator, other times it was a therapeutic monitor, a mediator, a parenting coach, etc. The role was generally the same, that is, to present these issues to a neutral third party that had either a legal or mental health background, or both, to assist the parties work out the differences and in many instances, make recommendations if they could not. 

The problem was that there was no uniformity to what this person, whatever they were called, could do.  Even Pre-Milne but post-Guidelines, I had cases where parent coordinators in non-Pilot Program counties were vested with incredible powers bordering on, if not crossing the line of the abdication of judicial authority, which is not supposed to happen.

Only time will tell whether the role of parent coordinator will go the way of the dinosaurs or go back to the free for all that existed pre-Guidelines.  Until then, we watch and hope that the dissolution of the Guidelines will not make things worse, instead of better.

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

An issue that has vexed us in the past is whether the rules enacted by the Supreme Court regarding parent coordinators were to be applied to all parent coordinators appointed by the Court.  In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court implemented a pilot program in four vicinages (Bergen, Morris/Sussex, Union and Middlesex) for parenting coordinators.  The link above provides the Supreme Court mandated guidelines and procedures which have also been discussed on this blog previously.

The problem arose when a parenting coordinator was appointed outside of one of those vicinages.  To my chagrin, I have heard judges state and lawyers argue that since their vicinage was outside of the pilot program, they did not have to follow the guidelines.  This was often in the context of a court improperly vesting a parent coordinator with authority which approached or could be argued to be an abdication of the judicial role. 

Finally, we have an answer to this question in the reported (precedential) case of Milne v. Goldenberg decided on September 12, 2012.  The case seems like a never ending, "war of the roses" type custody battle and also has some interesting discussion regarding the role of a Guardian ad Litem and procedures related thereto.  That said, the parent coordinate issue was addressed because the court appointed an attorney who was not on the court approved, pilot program parenting coordinator list. 

Continue Reading Finally an Answer to the Question about whether the Supreme Court Guidelines Apply to Parent Coordinators appointed in Counties Outside of the Pilot Program

A few years ago, during a conference with a reasonably new judge used the term "off the shelf parenting plan" to describe what he assumed a normal parenting time plan should be.  This plan was alternate weekends, Friday to Sunday night, and one night per week for dinner.  While my client was happy, because she did not want her husband to have more parenting time, with all due respect to the judge who became a very good family court judge just in time to be rotated to another division, was he right?

If this was the 1970s, 1980s or before, perhaps he would be right – or at least that was the prevalent parenting plan at the time.  However, parenting roles, societal norms and more importantly, psychological and social science research have come a long way since then.  Time and again, you no read and hear that, in most cases, children benefit from as much time as possible with both parents.  This does not necessarily mean an equal schedule and also must be adjusted for the ages of the child(ren).  For instance, a proper parenting plan for an infant or toddler, is different than for an older child.  In fact, for infants, there is a lot of research suggesting that overnights are not appropriate, but that more frequent visits are appropriate.  Much of the literature breaks things up as follows:  birth to 2 years; 2 to 3 years; 3 to 5 years; 6 to 9 years; 10 to 12 years; and teenagers.

What is clear, however, if a non-custodial parent wants substantial overnights with their children, assuming that that the kids are over 5, more likely than not, an custody expert will more likely recommend some type of shared parenting schedule, including perhaps true, shared 50-50 parenting. What do I mean by shared parenting? Between 5 and 7 out of 14 overnights. 

As such, if one party is trying to restrict parenting time, I will often suggest that my client seek a custody expert (joint or their own expert) because of the likelihood that absent some problem (psychological issues, abuse issues, substance issues) or logistical issues (the parties live too far apart to make shared parenting work), most experts usually recommend some type of shared parenting because that is what the research suggests is in a child’s best interests. 

Are experts making this recommendations only for super involved parents?  Not necessarily, though the more involved the parent has been, the more likely that they can get a 50-50 plan or 6 out of 14 overnights.  Because sometimes judges (as well as mediators and arbitrators) are not always aware of the current developments in the research, the attorney for the party seeking more time has to educate the judge, mediator or arbitrator.  Sometimes that means getting an expert.  Other times, especially if during a motion early in a case, it may mean filing a brief citing and attaching the articles.

The take away here is that it is rare that a parent has to settle for alternate weekends and one night for dinner if they seek more parenting time. 

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501 or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

Keeping with our theme of custody and parenting related blog posts this weekend, I recommend that you read  Aaron Weems‘, an associate in our Bucks County office and editor of our Pennsylvania Family Law Blog recently post on that blog entitled "Handling the Holidays."

Family lawyers, judges, parent coordinators often don’t look forward to holiday seasons because with them come often needless and petty disputes over holiday time.  Aaron’s blog provides an interesting perspective on this.  Parents should want their children to remember holidays for the good times, not because their parents put them in the middle of such disputes.  More importantly, the children should not look towards upcoming holidays with dread, wondering if their parents are going to fight about them again.

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.