In New Jersey, child custody and child support are determined by a mixture of parental agreement, judicial discretion, and complex mathematical equations. Below, we discuss the different child custody legal terms, the enforceability of parenting plans, and how parenting time can affect child custody. Reach out to an experienced Englewood child custody and parental rights attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
Visitation vs. Parenting Time vs. Time Share
In New Jersey, courts and family law attorneys no longer discuss parental rights in terms of “child custody” and “visitation.” As family dynamics have evolved, policymakers have come to view those terms as regressive. The implication appeared to be that there was one primary parent with custody and that the other parent was merely “visiting” their child–rather than exercising their parental rights and being a parent to their kid. Recognizing that spending time with your child is not simply “visiting,” as though they were a casual acquaintance, courts and lawyers now discuss parental rights in terms of “parenting time.”
Parenting time includes what was previously referred to as “visitation,” meaning the time each parent spends with the children. Parenting time can be laid out in a parenting plan or timeshare schedule, dictating which parent takes holidays, weekdays, weekends, sports, and other outings. The percentage of the total time each parent spends with the children is known as that parent’s “time share.”
Parenting time is contrasted with child custody, which concerns the legal rights associated with child-rearing. Custody includes both physical custody–meaning the right to have the child reside with that parent for a given portion of time–and legal custody–meaning the right to make important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing, including decisions pertaining to education, religion, and medicine. One parent may have primary physical custody while the parents share legal custody over some or all types of decisions. Legal custody rights can also be split–the court may award the right to one parent to, for example, determine the child’s religious schooling.
Parenting Plans Are Legally Enforceable
If you enter into a parenting plan, whether that plan is created by the parents and submitted to the judge or fabricated by the judge entirely, that plan is legally enforceable. Once the court incorporates the parenting plan into a final judgment, that parenting plan or timeshare arrangement has the force of a court order behind it.
Violating the parenting plan by, for example, refusing to let the other parent take the kid on their listed days, or intentionally interfering with the other parent’s parenting time by taking the child out of town without permission, means violating a court order. If one parent persists in violating the plan and, by extension, the court order, the other parent can petition the court to enforce the plan. If the other party remains intransigent, the court might hold them in contempt of court. Being held in contempt can lead to penalties including fines, limitation on custody rights, and even jail time.
Parenting Time Share and Child Support
The percentage of time each parent spends with the child under a parenting plan, known as each parent’s time share, has a direct effect on the amount of child support each parent may owe. If the child spends less than 28 percent of their nights with one parent, then that parent is considered a “non-custodial parent” (NCP), and the other parent is the custodial parent (CP). Depending on the parties’ respective income and expenses, the NCP will likely owe child support.
If each parent spends more than 28 percent of nights with the child, then the parents will be referred to as the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR), and the amount of child support owed by each parent will be determined by a shared parenting arrangement, taking into account each parent’s income and the amount of time spent with the child. These calculations can quickly become complex and require application by a savvy New Jersey child custody and parental rights attorney.
Call for Help With a New Jersey Child Custody Matter
If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.