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Managing parenting time after divorce

A divorce can be a challenging time for any child at any age. Studies consistently show that how parents interact after the divorce and how they are involved in the child's life can have a major impact on how difficult the transition is. One of the key factors involving children after divorce is custody and parenting time. The law in New Jersey and virtually all other states gives children the right to parenting time from both parents.

The custody and visitation agreement itself is only part of the story. A major factor is how that agreement is reached. Parents are highly encouraged to come to their own agreement outside of the court or to make use of court resources, such as family mediators, to help them reach an agreement that will gain the judge's approval. Children will feel more secure knowing their parents can still work together to provide for them.

When drafting a parenting plan, parents should be especially aware of the developmental needs of the children the agreement is designed to serve. They should keep especially in mind that the agreement is for the best interests of the child and not the parents. Children's needs vary greatly based on age. Infant children and preschoolers need a high degree of consistency, which can be especially hard after a divorce. At school age, the children are increasingly social and active in groups, and providing for this participation must be a factor. The dynamic changes greatly with teenage children who should be brought into the agreement directly and have input as to what works for them.

The changing needs of children as they grow means that often custody agreements must by dynamic. Since they are court orders, they must be changed through a formal process. An attorney can often assist parents in making changes to the agreement as needed over time.

Source: judiciary.state.nj.us, "Parenting Time: A Child's Right ", October 19, 2014

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