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New Jersey Family Law Blog

The option of nesting as a child custody arrangement

Some New Jersey parents might have heard about a child custody trend known as bird nesting. Its growing popularity is reflected in a sitcom about the arrangement, "Splitting Up Together", as well as an interview with actor Josh Lucas in which he discussed how it works for him, his son and his son's mother. With bird nesting, parents who split up keep a home that the children stay in full time while their parents take turns living there.

Certain provisions may increase the likelihood of a successful nesting arrangement. Parents should communicate clearly with one another about their expectations. For example, one factor for two parents who tried the arrangement without success was that one felt the other left housework undone. Another issue those parents had was that while the father was able to stay with his parents and have his own space when he was not in the house, the mother was sleeping on her sister's couch. Nesting generally works better when both parents have a place of their own.

Lack of financial knowledge could lead to surprises in divorce

Statistics show that older couples are now twice as likely to divorce as they were in the 1990s. Unfortunately, this may present particular financial challenges for some seniors in New Jersey. In particular, women appear to be disproportionately more likely to lack a knowledge of household finances. A "gray divorce" can lead to unpleasant post-divorce surprises, such as learning about secret debts.

A UBS Global Wealth Management study found that 56 percent of wives said they let their husbands make major decisions about finances and investments. This seems to cut across generations as 61 percent of Millennial women and 54 percent of Baby Boomer women said their husbands make these decisions. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of men and over half of women with children younger than 21 said they would not have an issue with their daughter's future spouse managing finances for both of them.

Why some domestic abuse survivors must still fight for custody

New Jersey parents who leave abusive relationships might still find themselves in a custody battle with their abusive spouses. According to the American Psychological Association, most people assume that leaving a relationship because of abuse means the parent and child will be protected from the abusive parent, but this is often not the case. The APA says that because courts are dedicated to keeping children in contact with both parents, they often dismiss allegations of abuse.

A Texas representative has introduced a congressional resolution aimed at extending greater protection to parents and their children who are leaving abusive relationships. The resolution would require courts to thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse before moving ahead with any further decisions regarding custody. However, the bill has been in committee for two years although it has the support of numerous domestic violence organizations and both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. Guidelines from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts in 2016 also recommend investigations into domestic violence reports.

A parent's role during divorce

New Jersey parents who are going through a divorce should be aware of how to speak to their children about the separation process and what it means. A divorce can impact every member of the family, especially children. Therefore, it's important that any concerns the kids may have be properly addressed.

Many children feel that the separation of their parents is due to something they did or said. Parents should talk to their children and reassure them that they are not the ones to blame.

How child visitation schedules are created and why

A child visitation schedule may be created by parents or the court in New Jersey either during or after a divorce. It sets out a schedule for the child's time with each parent that parents must abide by. It is separate from a custody schedule, which is a schedule that is set up if parents are sharing custody.

Even if one parent has primary custody, the court system recognizes that barring issues such as abuse and neglect, children should be able to spend time with both parents. When parents are unable to agree on a visitation schedule because of conflict over the divorce, distance from one another that requires one to travel for visitation or for some other reason, the court may step in and make a schedule. If there is a question about a child's well-being with one parent, that parent may be required to only have supervised visitation.

Tips for New Jersey seniors going through divorce

Since the 1990s, the divorce rate for people age 50 and older has doubled. Furthermore, second and subsequent marriages are even more likely to end in divorce for people in this age group. These older couples have several financial factors to consider before separating.

For example, older couples may need to find out if one spouse will be eligible to draw Social Security benefits on the other spouse's work record. This may be the case if one person earned a significantly higher income than the other. However, it is also necessary for the marriage to have lasted for at least 10 years. Therefore, a couple might want to delay a marriage that is close to the 10-year mark if it will benefit one of them.

Crafting a parenting time schedule for divorcing parents of a special needs child

A special needs child requires structure and predictability in their daily schedules. The slightest deviation can compound a special needs child's anxiety. Indeed, parents of a special needs child are quite familiar with the meltdowns that can result from the most minute modifications to that child's schedule. Conversely, a strict maintenance to a consistent schedule can alleviate a special needs child's anxiety over time - as it provides comfort and certainty in a world they struggle to process and understand. 

Factors used to determine child custody matters

It is not uncommon for child custody cases in New Jersey to be contentious affairs. However, there are several universal factors that generally determine the outcome whether it is decided by a judge or by the parents themselves. Ultimately, any decision that is made is supposed to be in the best interest of the child. This is true whether the parents are given joint custody or if one person is named the custodial parent.

When creating a child custody order, it must be shown that a parent can provide a living environment that is free from abuse. Therefore, parents may need to show that they have a stable income and they don't engage in activities that could be physically or emotionally abusive. If a child has a sibling, both may live with the same parent to provide stability.

Early planning helps post-divorce finances

Picking out wedding rings and signing divorce documents may seem worlds apart to many New Jersey citizens, but high divorce rates are leading many to consider divorce planning right alongside wedding planning. While some consider it cynical, pragmatic couples who want to protect assets from divorce litigation see such planning as a type of insurance they plan on never using.

Pre- and post-nuptial agreements are very common vehicles for divorce planning, but they are not the only tools in the box. Keeping separate investment and checking accounts can aid in providing insulation from divorce settlements if a marriage fails. Following a separate accounts strategy requires both good record-keeping and discipline. Any co-mingling of assets could result in individually held assets being later classified as marital property subject to division. For this reason, couples should keep a joint account used to fund household expenses, buy groceries and pay joint bills. Account statements from investments or other financial holdings should be kept to show their value at the time of marriage.

Ensuring that children spend time with fathers after divorce

More than 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce. This means a lot of children end up caught in the middle. Parents in New Jersey may need to be particularly careful to ensure that after divorce, a child is still able to maintain a relationship with the father.

They should keep in mind that mediocre parenting is better than no parent at all. This means that even when one parent disapproves of the other's parenting skills, as long as the child's well-being is not at risk because of issues such as abuse, neglect or addiction, both parents should have access to the child.

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