New Jersey Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
Parenting plans (also called custody agreements) detail how parents will cooperate in raising their children.
Parents who settle a non-divorce case involving custody must draft a parenting plan together. Parents who settle a divorce often do the same so that their marital settlement agreement includes a parenting plan. In both scenarios, the plan becomes a final custody order once approved by a judge.
Parents who do not settle can each submit a proposed plan. The judge may even require this in preparation for the pre-trial conference.
Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.
Parenting plan templates
New Jersey does not have a standard template, so parents can use any format, such as the Custody X Change parenting plan template.
Make sure to include essential information like the case number, court name and parents' names at the top of the document.
Information required in your plan
Your parenting plan should address any matter that's important to the best interest of your child, such as their:
- Religious involvement (if any)
- Health care
- Supervision by nonparents
At a minimum, it must address physical custody, legal custody and child support.
Physical custody determines where the child lives.
Shared physical custody, which is most common, places the child with each parent for at least 104 overnights a year. The parent of primary residence spends the most time with the child (often not by much), and their address determines the child's school district. The other parent, the parent of alternate residence, typically pays child support.
Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent (the custodial parent) most of the time and visits the other for 103 or fewer overnights per year. The noncustodial parent typically pays child support. The court may order supervised visitation if it's unsafe for the child to be alone with the noncustodial parent.
Your plan should designate shared or sole physical custody, plus identify each parent's role. You'll need a written parenting time schedule to explain the details. (Each child may have a different schedule.) Adding a visual custody calendar is optional.
Legal custody determines who can make decisions for the child.
If you choose joint legal custody, explain the details clearly. You may:
- Require parents to agree on some or all major decisions
- Allow parents to make some or all major decisions independently
- Give one parent purview over certain decisions
- Name a third party to make decisions when parents reach a standstill
If you're not settling child support, your plan can skip the topic altogether.
If you reach a support agreement, fill out the applicable child support worksheet, and attach it to your plan. The worksheet determines your recommended payment, according to the state's formula.
For shared physical custody, complete a shared parenting worksheet. Follow the instructions beginning on page 23 of Appendix IX-B (linked above).
If the amount you've agreed to differs from the guideline amount, explain why on the worksheet.
Suggested information to include
To avoid later stress and confusion, try to think of all potential parenting disagreements ahead of time, then stipulate in your plan exactly how you'll handle them. For ideas, look at common parenting plan provisions.
New Jersey lawyers recommend you include the following provisions in your plan.
Detail how parents will divide expenses not covered by child support (e.g., school tuition) or by health insurance (e.g., co-pays).
Specify that the receiving parent will pick up the kids. The parent who already has the children may be distracted or want more time, so exchanges are more likely to happen on time when the receiving parent does the transporting. (This may not apply to families who require supervised exchanges or supervised visitation.)
Communication with the child
State when and how a parent can communicate with the child during the other parent's custody time. Should the child have a cell phone on them? When is it too late to call on a school night? Is video calling okay?
Communication with the other parent
Parents should keep an open line of communication in case of emergency. Say when and how (e.g., text, call) they may contact one another.
Right of first refusal
What happens when one parent needs someone to look after the child for a significant amount of time? Stipulate whether they must ask the other parent to watch the child first.
Explain who, besides parents, can look after the child, possibly listing options in order of priority. For example, should parents contact relatives before a hired babysitter?
Figure out how you'll handle vacation time with the child. Is travel outside of the state allowed? Outside of the country? What accommodations must be made for the child while on the trip?
Specify how you'll introduce new partners into the child's life. For example, should the other parent meet the partner first? Is the partner allowed to make decisions for the child (e.g., what they eat)?
Detail how you and the other parent will proceed if one of you is unavailable for a scheduled visit. Set rules for giving advance notice and for making up visits.
For more guidance as you create your parenting plan, see these resources:
- Age guidelines for parenting plans and schedules
- Temporary parenting plans and schedules
- Modifying your parenting plan and schedule
The easiest way to make a parenting plan
When you're writing a parenting plan, it's critical you use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation. You must also be careful not to omit any information required by the court.
If you hire a lawyer or mediator, they'll write up the plan and ensure it meets the court's requirements.
If you write your own plan, use technology to take guesswork out of the equation. The parenting plan template in the Custody X Change online app walks you through each step.
The result is a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent from the first glance.
The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.