Child Custody, Child Support & Alimony

Child Custody & Parenting Time

The decisions you make concerning your time with the children of your marriage (or dating relationship) may effect your life for years to come in ways you never could have anticipated without counsel of a knowledgeable attorney.

Know the difference between legal custody and physical custody before you enter the court room.  Don’t be lulled into temporary arrangements against your wishes to appease a combative spouse. Almost every family qualifies for joint “legal” custody between both parents.

Remember that property and money can always be replaced.  Your relationship with your child is priceless.

Factors in Child Custody Disputes:

  1. the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
  2. the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time based on substantial abuse;
  3. the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents’ and siblings;
  4. the history of domestic violence, if any;
  5. the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
  6. the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
  7. the needs of the child;
  8. the stability of the home environment offered;
  9. the quality and continuity of the child’s education;
  10. the fitness of the parents;
  11. the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
  12. the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
  13. the parents’ employment responsibilities;
  14. and the age and number of the children.

Now that you know the factors, you can make an educated decision as to whether it would be more appropriate for either you or your spouse to have physical custody.  In some rare circumstances it is possible to have shared physical custody, sometimes called “split” physical custody.  Although these types of arrangements are becoming more common, opinions vary widely as to whether the children are well served by them.

I’d be happy to sit down with you to discuss these important issues in depth.  We can weigh your options and discuss the ramifications of various arrangements.  With proper planning, it is possible for you to maintain a rewarding relationship with your children after divorce.  But it usually takes two caring parents who are willing to put their differences aside for the sake of the children.  Hopefully each party’s “better angels” will prevail.  As your attorney, I will work with you to create a parenting plan to make that possible.

Child Support & Alimony

Alimony and child support, although similar in that they are both designed to fairly divide marital money to save the parties and their children from economic disaster, are calculated differently and serve different purposes.  No matter what the outcome, both parties will probably need to make substantial adjustments to their way of life to succeed post-divorce.

How much child support is required?

If your marriage did not yield children, move to the next section.  Child support is calculated based upon guidelines set up under the New Jersey Rules of Court.  Support may vary for families below the poverty level or with substantial earnings.  Shared parenting kicks in when the non-custodial parent (the one the kids don’t live with–usually the Dad) takes the kids overnight more than 103 days a year.  Support is affected by the number of children, the ages of the children, children of previous marriages (or relationships) that need support, by whether the custodial-parent (the one the kids do live with–usually the Mom) works and pays for day-care, which parent pays health insurance for the kids, etc.  There is more to it than just “who earns the most.”  To make matters even more confusing, if a Mom gets alimony, that counts as income, and may serve to lower the child support Dad has to pay.  For more information see the official child support appendix to the court rules.

How much alimony is required?

Alimony is calculated based on statutory criteria, set up by our legislature, which are wide open to judicial interpretation.  There are four kinds: permanent, rehabilitative, limited duration and reimbursement (or in combination).  In other words–the outcome is much harder to predict than child support.  Here are the factors:

  • need and ability of parties to pay
  • length of marriage (the longer it was, the better the chances for alimony)
  • age and health
  • lifestyle during the marriage
  • ability of the parties to earn based on education and employ-ability
  • if one parent gave up working for sake of the marriage
  • training needed to reenter the workforce and future potential to earn
  • contributions of each person to the marriage (financial and non-financial)
  • how the property of the marriage was divided
  • anything else you can convince (or that) the Court (chooses) to consider

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a service to you.  Advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey should be sought before attempting to rely on these materials.