New Jersey Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Using the law as a guide when creating your parenting plan will help you design a parenting plan that meets the needs of your child, serves the child's best interests, and complies with the rules of the court and the laws of the state.
These laws can be found in the New Jersey Permanent Statutes, Title 9, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts.
The NJPS clearly defines some of the terminology used in court and court documents, explains the criteria the court uses when determining custody, and states the available custodial rights of the parents.
Once you bring the matter before the law, the New Jersey courts have the power to make orders concerning the care, custody, maintenance, and education of the child of non-married or married parents when they separate (NJPS 9:2-3).
Early in the process, the court will make a temporary order for custody. This decision is based on the best interests of the child and is usually a continuation of the child's current care, so long as continuing that care would be in the best interests of the child.
Through the course of the child custody process, the court will make a judgment for the permanent custody of the child, and both of you will be legally obligated to comply with the court order.
The court may award any custodial arrangement the court deems appropriate, but the most common custodial arrangements are (NJPS 9:2-4a-b):
- Joint custody means the parents share legal (authority over the child and decision making responsibilities) custody. Physical custody may be shared between the parents or one parent may have sole physical custody and the other parent may have reasonable visitation rights and parenting time.
- Sole custody means one parent is responsible for all of the legal responsibilities and decision making involving the child and that parent shall also provide the sole residence for the child. The non-custodial parent is usually entitled to parenting time/visitation rights. Typically, the only time a parent is denied visitation rights is when the parent has committed a horrible act or acts that would cause the child harm if contact with the child is continued.
It is the policy of the State of New Jersey that both parents are considered equal, natural guardians of their child, and a child has the right to have frequent, continuing contact and relationships with both parents, regardless of whether or not the parents are or were married (NJPS 9:2-4).
The State of New Jersey considers the best interest of the child and the child's safety and well-being to be paramount when deciding on child custody issues.
The court considers the following factors, as well as any other relevant factors, when determining the child's best interests (NJPS 9:2-4c):
- The expressed wishes of the parents as to custody of the child
- The parents' willingness to communicate and cooperate with each other
- The parents' willingness to accept custody of the child
- Whether or not there has been a problem with a parent preventing parenting time to occur (without just cause, such as abuse)
- The history of care of the child
- The child's relationships with each parent and any siblings
- The proximity of the parents' homes
- The child's educational needs
- Whether the availability of the parents may be substantially affected by employment responsibilities.
- The fitness of each parent
- The safety and security of the proposed homes
- Whether or not each parent is able to meet the needs of the child
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse
- The number of children the parents have
- The age of the child
- The wishes of the child if the child is mature enough and desires to voice an educated opinion
In the State of New Jersey, any parenting agreement or parenting plan the parents mutually agree upon will be approved by the court unless the court finds the agreement to be contrary to the child's best interests (NJPS 9:2-4d).
It is beneficial to both of you, and especially your child, if you are able to cooperate and work together to devise a parenting plan for your child.
If you have exhausted all options and are still are unable to reach an agreement, the court will require each of you to create their own proposed parenting plans for the court to consider (NJPS 9:2-4e).
A parenting plan may contain, at a minimum, the following components:
- A designation as to the legal and physical custody of the child
- A determination as to the child's primary residence
- A parenting time schedule that includes a regular residential schedule, a holiday schedule, and a vacation schedule
- A statement delegating parental responsibilities and rights
- Methods for modifying the parenting plan
- Methods for dispute resolution, should the need for either occur in the future
- Any stipulations the parents wish to include
The more thought and consideration you put into your parenting plan, the better.
As you incorporate more and more details into the plan, you are sparing each other from potential disputes in the future.
When you consider the laws and rules of the court when creating your parenting plan, while keeping the best interests of your child a priority, you will be on track to create a parenting plan that will benefit everyone while satisfying the requirements of the court.
The top twenty cities in New Jersey (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Toms River, Trenton, Camden, Brick Township, Clifton, Cherry Hill, Passaic, East Orange, Union City, Vineland, Bayonne, Irvington, North Bergen, Wayne, Union.