I doubt there is any more of a complex and thorny issue in a divorce where there are children than negotiating and agreeing to a parenting and visitation schedule. Even in an otherwise amicable separation problems can arise when they involve the children, who will have custody, how often and when the other parent may see the kids, and how decisions will be made regarding their upbringing, education, healthcare and related questions
Both parents believe they have the best interests of the children in mind yet, often, both the father and mother want to have maximum access to their children and a say in how they are raised.
Here are five things fathers need to know as we negotiate a parenting and visitation schedule for your children.
1 – A patenting schedule must meet the state guidelines and the needs of your kids
State law specifies that, in a divorce, the emotional, physical and social needs of the children come ahead of all other considerations. Judges are adamant about enforcing this entirely appropriate rule. But the parenting and visitation schedule must also meet state guidelines. If your parenting plan falls short of the state guidelines, it will be rejected by the court. In negotiating a parenting schedule with your ex’s attorney, we ensure that the agreement won’t get rejected by a judge for some reason.
2 – The schedule may change as the children get older
As is the case with adults, the needs of a child will change as they get older. What worked well when the youngster was, say, ten years old is unlikely to be workable when your son or daughter reaches their teenage years. They will want different things and, for the most part, are entitled to begin to test their independence. As well, teenagers often are asked by the court where they want to live. Be ready to renegotiate the parenting and visitation schedule.
3 – Parenting time may be divided four ways
This is even more than the number of ways ancient France was divided:
A 50-50 Custody Schedule: A joint parenting schedule means that both parents share equal time with the children. We seek to have a 50-50 schedule when the father in New Jersey wants joint custody and courts are more open to this type of arrangement than they were in the past, even when the mother claims she wants to have sole custody.
A 60-40 Custody Schedule: The father will have the children 60-percent of the time and the mother 40-percent. This arrangement often is the result of the mother traveling frequently for work while the dad does not go out of town on business very often and wants to be heavily involved with the kids.
A 70-30 Custody Schedule: The child spends 70-percent of their time with one parent and 30-percent with the other. This provides children with a primary home with the father but is able to spend a fair bit of quality time with their mother.
The 80-20 Custody Schedule: In effect, the 80-20 schedule gives the father sole custody of the children. The kids will spend a certain number of weekends with their mother and a pre-set amount of time during school holiday breaks and during summer vacation.
4 – Split custody and joint custody are different things
Understandably, many people assume that split custody and joint custody are the same thing. They aren’t. Split custody arrangements come into play where there is more than one child and each lives with a different parent. By contrast, joint custody means the children are dividing their time between their father and mother. Split custody isn’t very common because most counselors, the court and parents agree that it is usually in the best interests of siblings to stay together.
5 – If your wife won’t agree on a schedule, a standard agreement may be imposed
In the best of all worlds, you and your ex-wife will create a customized parenting agreement that works for everyone and gives the children a fair amount of time with each parent. But if we can’t reach an agreement while negotiating with your wife’s attorneys, a standard agreement gives the non-custodial parent one evening per week and every other weekend.
Finding What is Best for Children and Fathers in New Jersey
When it comes to negotiating and creating a visitation schedule, you and your wife need to be involved in the process because only the two of you know what is best for the kids. By setting aside your differences, you can build a schedule that works for everybody – including the children.
If you or someone you know is a man or father in New Jersey who is contemplating divorcing their wife, we are happy to answer any questions you might have about creating a workable parenting and visitation schedule. Feel free to call me or any of the family lawyers for fathers at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.