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Florham Park New Jersey Family Law Blog

What factors determine the best interests of the child?

When New Jersey parents go through a divorce, their main priority is shielding their children from any unnecessary conflict and stress they may experience. Even though the end of a marriage is about the two adults in the relationship, the youngest members of the family can have a difficult time with this decision. In order to prevent unnecessary emotional and mental duress, parents will find it beneficial to focus on the best interests of their kids above all else.

If you are a parent, you may be wondering what factors determine the best interests of your child. Of course, you rightfully believe you know what is best for your child, but if you go to court, there are certain things the court will consider when making final decisions. Regardless of whether you go to court or negotiate the terms of your agreement with the other parent, it is important to strive for the child's long-term happiness and stability.

Can you keep a combative divorce from impacting your kids?

No one -- particularly couples with kids -- wants a messy, combative divorce, but sometimes it happens. Maybe your soon-to-be-ex isn't handling the break-up well and always seems to be picking fights. Maybe the two of you are nowhere close to agreeing on things like property division, support, child custody and other issues, and that impacts your interactions.

Meanwhile, the two of you have to maintain some contact because you're co-parenting. So how do you keep the tensions between you from impacting your children?

Is a co-parenting class worthwhile even without your ex?

Co-parenting classes are designed to help parents who are no longer a couple learn to communicate, cooperate and compromise with one another for the well-being of their children. Sometimes a judge will order parents to enroll in a co-parenting class. However, separated or divorced couples sometimes choose to take a co-parenting class to learn how to navigate this new phase of parenthood.

What if your co-parent refuses to participate in a co-parenting class? If a judge has ordered it, they'll need to comply with the order or risk sanctions. However, they can find ways to put off their participation. If there's no mandate from the court, you might have a more difficult time persuading your ex to do it.

Why you should help your kids with gifts for your co-parent

When you were married, you and your spouse likely each helped your children buy gifts for the other one's birthday, Mother's Day and Father's Day, Christmas and other holidays. Now that you're divorced, if you share custody, you still have that responsibility. At least you do until your kids are old enough to buy these presents without your money and/or other assistance -- like a ride to the store and some help gift wrapping.

If you're still stinging from the divorce, it's understandable that you're not in the mood to help buy your ex a gift. That's why it's important to remember that you aren't doing this for them. You're doing it for your child. They want to buy their parent a gift, and they're counting on you for help. If they're too young to remember that it's their parent's birthday or when Mother's Day or Father's Day is, it's up to you to remind them and encourage them to do something nice -- even if it's just a card or a small handmade gift.

Custody battles can turn couples in to 'helicopter' parents

When divorcing spouses can't reach an agreement on their own regarding how child custody will be divided, a judge has to make that decision. That often results in parents trying to prove their level of involvement in their children's lives by going to extremes that aren't in their children's best interests.

"Intensive" or "helicopter" parenting is generally agreed to be an unhealthy type of parenting that can prevent children from developing the coping skills they'll need throughout their lives. It can also leave them feeling anxious, entitled and less than confident about their own decision-making ability.

Divorce changes life but doesn't have to ruin it

Perhaps, you and your spouse were having marriage problems for years before you decided to go your separate ways. Then again, maybe a specific event, such as an affair, convinced you that your marriage was over. Either way, filing for divorce in a New Jersey court means you will experience numerous changes in life. 

Change is a part of life. The fact that divorce will change your life is not as critical to your ability to move on without your spouse as your reactions to those changes might be. It's helpful to build a strong network of support from the start.

Co-parenting and extracurricular activities

If you're a parent who's going to be divorcing, you want your children to experience as little disruption in their lives as possible. That means continuing with their extracurricular activities. Whether it's soccer, martial arts, music or theater, these activities can help them grow in to well-rounded adults.

When comes to attending games, recitals and other events around these extracurricular activities, you may want to address some details in your parenting plan. For example, you can stipulate that both parents need to be made aware of and allowed to attend any event. You may also want to address things like how the cost of these activities will be divided and who's expected to take your kids to and from them.

Should you seek a COLA clause in your support orders?

If your spouse has been ordered to pay you spousal and/or child support, the original support order can be modified either temporarily or permanently if circumstances change. Changes that could warrant a modification include things like a change in financial circumstances (either yours or your ex's).

For child support, changes in a child's needs as they get older can require that you seek a modification in the amount of support you receive for them. Spousal support typically ends when the recipient remarries or begins to cohabitate with someone. Of course, spousal support may be ordered with a designated end date to give the recipient time to get back into the workforce at a level where they can support themselves.

Dealing with unsolicited advice during your divorce

There are many reasons to limit the number of people you tell that you are divorcing to only those who really need to know. Outside of close family and friends, that probably includes your boss, your kids' teachers and anyone who spends time in your home, like your housekeeper. Even then, it's often best not to share any more information than necessary.

One reason to limit whom you talk to about your divorce is that everyone will have an opinion. Apart from your attorney, therapist, spiritual counselor and financial advisors, most of these opinions are just that -- someone else's idea of what should be happening or why.

Tips for having the break-up conversation with your spouse

You've made up your mind that you and your spouse need to separate. Maybe you're already separated, and you've decided it's time to begin the divorce process. You know that you'll need to be the one to take this step. Maybe your spouse wants to stay in the marriage more than you, or perhaps you're simply the more decisive of the two of you.

This is probably going to be one of the most difficult discussions either of you will ever have, and you'll both remember it forever. How do you go about having it?

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