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What You Should Know About Visitation in New Jersey
One of the biggest problems with handling post-divorce custody arrangements is the feeling one parent may have regarding a loss of control. That loss of control can be compounded if your co-parent makes decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with, such as the presence of a new person in the child’s life who you may see as a negative influence. Naturally, you want to do what’s best for your child. So, can you actually limit or restrict others’ visitation with your children?
New Jersey Visitation Guidelines
In the past, the common term for your custodial time was “visitation.” Today, the term has been shifted a little to “parenting” time. It’s the policy of the New Jersey court system to protect parenting time so that a child can grow up with close contact and support from both parents.
The first step for most divorcing couples is to either create a parenting time schedule together or to use a court mediator to help with this process. However, if they can’t come to an agreement, then both sides will submit their respective proposals to the court and the court will decide on a final plan.
Parenting Time Is Also Known as Custody in New Jersey
The goal of New Jersey courts is to allow parents to spend as much time as possible with their children. While this may look different for families going through a divorce, separation, or non-married couples seeking custody, the best interest of the child is the top concern for each case. To better understand your visitation rights means you need to understand the different custody types.
Custody Types Under New Jersey Law
Under New Jersey law, the following types of custody are recognized:
- Legal Custody: This establishes a parent as the decision-making authority who can make long-term decisions and plans that may impact a child’s health and safety as well as education.
- Physical Custody: This establishes which of the parents the child will live with once the parents are divorced (or separated).
- Joint Custody: This term describes when both parents are involved in parenting time and making decisions in one or more aspects of the child’s life.
- Sole Custody: This is when only one parent is involved in parenting time or if one parent is limited in his or her participation in some aspect of custody.
Can I Deny Visitation to My Ex or My Child’s Non-Custodial Parent?
While you may have a very good case for believing your child shouldn’t visit with their non-custodial parent, you can’t deny visitation unless you have very good reason to believe your child is in imminent danger. If that truly is the case, you must call the police and let them know that you’re refusing visitation and why. If you do not, then you can be subject to legal penalties for denying visitation.
In any other instance you may want to deny visitation, you’ll need to go to court to adjust your previous custody agreement. We recommended that you have an experienced family law attorney representing you who’s well-versed in custody law in New Jersey before taking this step.
Just because you take your ex back to court to adjust the agreement doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily succeed. You’ll have to show the court that there’s been a “substantial change of circumstances” to warrant the adjustment.
For instance, if the other parent has relocated to an unsafe home or if the other parent has begun abusing drugs and/or alcohol, then you may have a case for such a change. Another instance, which affects the safety and welfare of the child is if the other parent begins a relationship with someone who’s abusive or who’s abusing drugs. If they’re around the child, then they’re putting his or her welfare at risk, and this is of the utmost importance to the court.
As with the initial custody case, you must present evidence to show that your claim of a “substantial change of circumstances” is valid. The court will usually encourage couples to handle this adjustment to the schedule through mediation. But if a mediated compromise can’t be reached, then a hearing will be held to determine if it is necessary to make a change.
What Can I Do If My Ex Won’t Stick to The Custody Agreement?
One of the biggest concerns that parents express is the idea that their ex won’t comply with the established parenting time schedule. However, you should remember that a custody agreement is a legally binding court order and if your ex violates this, they can face severe penalties.
The first step in this process is to talk things over with the other parent. Sometimes things may arise to cause the interruption and it may be a one-time lapse.
If you know that you’ll have trouble abiding by the agreement, just let the other parent know as soon as possible so they can adjust. However, if it becomes a repetitive problem, then it may be necessary to contact an attorney and go back to court for a change in the agreement.
The court can take the following steps if they deem the lapses to be serious and frequent:
- issue compensatory time with the children for the parent who lost time;
- order the offending parent to pay fees such as child-care expenses that may have resulted from the other parent’s missing time;
- order a modification in the transportation arrangements including pick-up and drop-off times and locations;
- require counseling or parenting classes at the offending parent’s expense; and
- order a modification in the full custody agreement.
In extreme situations, the court can even have the parent who has violated the agreement put in jail for this disruption.
Understand Your Visitation Rights in New Jersey
Overall, parents do have rights when it comes to visitation and parenting time. But it’s important for you to understand what these are and what type of visitation you have. An experienced New Jersey family law attorney at Smedley Law Group can help you protect yourself and your child in these situations.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including Marlton, Haddonfield, Cherry Hill, Sewell, and Washington Township. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.