Child custody is one of the most complex aspects of a divorce in New Jersey, but creating a parenting and visitation schedule can cause further complications. Both parties must consider the child’s school and each parent’s work and financial situation before setting a concrete schedule. Until the plan is approved by the courts or mediator, every move you make can have an effect on the outcome.
1. There Are Three Types of Schedules: School, Holiday and Summer Break
Under New Jersey divorce laws, there are three schedules that your family will follow throughout the year: school, holiday and summer.
The school cycle is sometimes referred to as the residential cycle, the repeating cycle of custody and visitation, or the basic cycle. As the name suggests, this cycle generally runs from the start of the school year through the start of summer break.
The summer schedule may vary from the residential cycle. Parents may also use this same type of schedule when children have longer breaks during the schoolyear.
The holiday schedule will take precedence over the residential schedule during specified holiday throughout the year.
2. Parenting Time May Be Split in Four Different Ways
When creating a visitation schedule, parenting time may be split in four different ways.
An 80/20 schedule is common when one parent has sole custody of the child. In this case, the child lives with one parent 80% of the time, and the remaining 20% of the time is spent with the other parent.
A 70/30 schedule is very similar to the 80/20 schedule. The child will spend 70% of the time with one parent and 30% of the time with the other.
With this type of arrangement, the child still has a primary home with one parent, but is able to spend a little more time with the other parent.
As its name suggests, a 60/40 arrangement will give one parent 60% of the time with the child, while the other parent gets 40%.
A joint parenting schedule, or 50/50 schedule, allows both parents to enjoy an equal amount of time with the child. While not as common as the other arrangements, joint parenting is growing in popularity.
3. Split Custody and Joint Custody Are Two Different Things
Most people understandably assume that split and joint custody are the same thing, but they’re actually quite different.
In a split custody arrangement, the parents split the physical custody of their children. One child lives with one parent, while the other child lives with the other parent. Naturally, this type of custody only works with families that have multiple children.
Joint custody, on the other hand, splits the child’s time with the parents and/or both parents will have a say in decisions involving the child.
Split custody is not a common arrangement, as most counselors and courts (and parents) agree that it’s often in the best interests of the children for siblings to stay together. But there are some situations where split custody may be a good option.
A split custody arrangement may be suitable in cases involving:
- Teenagers who want to bond with the parent of the same gender, or explore their freedom by living with the other parent.
- Extreme relationship issues, either between the parents or the children. Courts will recommend trying to resolve these issues, but there are instances where split custody is the better option.
- Dangerous sibling relationships. While very rare, there may be cases where the siblings have mental or physical issues that make them a danger to the people around them. In this case, a split custody arrangement may be best, and both siblings can visit one another with proper supervision.
4. Parenting Schedules Must Meet State Guidelines and Your Child’s Needs
While parents are free to make their own schedules, it must be in line with the laws that govern child custody in New Jersey. The schedule must also meet the child’s emotional, physical and social needs.
If your parenting plan does not meet state guidelines, it won’t be accepted by the court. Make sure that you understand the laws and consult with your New Jersey divorce lawyer when creating your parenting time plan.
5. Your Schedule May Change as the Child Gets Older
Your children’s needs will change as they grow older, which means your parenting schedule may change, too.
In many cases, courts allow teenagers to decide where they want to live.
6. Parenting Schedules Can Get Complicated if Parents Live in Different States
When parents are living in two different states, creating a balanced parenting schedule can be difficult.
One state will have jurisdiction over the other when it comes to custody proceedings, and both parents will need to follow that state’s laws.
If both parents live far from each other, parenting schedules may have fewer exchanges to accommodate the long travel distance.
7. If You Cannot Agree On a Customized Schedule, a Standard Agreement May Be Enacted
In an ideal world, you and your ex would put your differences aside and create a customized parenting agreement that works for all involved parties and gives the children a fair amount of time with each parent.
However, if you and your partner cannot agree on a schedule, a standard custody agreement may be put in place. A standard agreement will give the non-custodial parent one evening per week and every other weekend with the child.
When it comes to creating a visitation schedule, both parents should ideally be involved in the process. Only you know what’s best for your child. If you and your ex can set aside your differences, you can create a schedule that works well for everyone and gives the child adequate time with each parent.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with child custody.You can read more on this topic by visiting our Child Custody & Support blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.