Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Articles Posted in Parenting Time

As our society and culture continues to evolve, the concept of a family keeps shifting as well. But as with all family relationships, disputes may occur that require lawyers and the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey Court to resolve the matter in a way that not only serves the best interests of the child but the needs of new family relationships as well. As the attorneys at our law firm study all new cases involving New Jersey child custody matters, we found a brand new case that provides for an unprecedented “tri-parenting arrangement.” Following please find a complete analysis of this potentially trend setting case that addresses issues such as a psychological parent, expands the rights of the LGBT population and embraces contemporary family situations.

New Jersey divorce lawyer

The case of D.G. and S.H. v. K.S., addressed issues of custody, removal, and support between three friends to conceive and jointly raise a child in a tri-parenting arrangement. In 2009 K.S. gave birth to a daughter, O.S.H. The biological father of O.S.H. is D.G. The third party, S.H., is D.G.’s same-sex spouse, who bonded with and became a psychological parent of O.S.H. After a long and arduous trial, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part, Ocean County, awarded joint legal and joint residential custody of O.S.H. to all three parties, and denied the application of K.S. to remove and relocate the child to a different state.

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When I am presented with a New Jersey child custody case with two sound parents, I do my best to help the parties come to an agreement as to how they shall co-parent their children. I often tell my clients, “it is better for you and the other parent to work things out than to have a stranger in a black robe tell you when you may see your children.” If the parents come to an agreement, I review the settlement closely. However, unless I see something that is not in the best interest of the children, or something that is detrimental to my client, I do not “upset the apple cart.” If two parents can agree, I applaud their ability to put their hurt feelings for one another in order to protect the kids from being involved in NJ child custody litigation.

Nevertheless, I have handled many cases over the years when custody is in dispute and I do so in a vigorous manner. Following are some helpful tips for those parents who face a custody battle. First, it is not a violation of New Jersey’s Wiretap Statute for a parent to record a child’s conversation with the other parent. Of course, this party must be able to demonstrate a reasonable reason for doing so and that same is in the best interest of the child. Cacciarelli v. Boniface.

Second, a parent’s right to the care and companionship with his or her children is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Therefore, even if you consider the other parent to be unfit, you still have a heavy burden in the Superior Court of New Jersey before all contact between that parent and your child will be terminated. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.
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The use of technology keeps us all a few clicks away from one another. No longer are we bound to the kitchen wall to talk to loved ones. Now with mobile phones (including texting) and many online programs using webcams such as Skype, visiting with your children, no matter the physical distance between you is rather simple. This helps parents when they live far away from their children, but also when they do not have parenting time and would like to touch base.

It is estimated that 10 million American children live in a different state or country than one of their parents. Seeing one another on a regular basis may not be possible and the distance may make holiday visits prohibitive.

For couples going through the New Jersey divorce process, your agreements may stipulate the frequency and mechanism by which your children may communicate with their other parent when it is your co-parenting time. If you are already divorced and would like to put some legal language around these communications, a competent NJ divorce attorney can certainly help you.

There is precedent here in New Jersey for virtual visitation through a case in 2001, McCoy v McCoy. The mother who was the custodial parent had built a website which housed a webcam which allowed for daily updating on the child’s activity and face-to-face interactions with her father. The court ruled that this was a “creative and innovated” way for the non-custodial father to keep in touch with his child.
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The first round of the holidays is behind us, and I do hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you who are divorced and co-parenting I hope it was filled with easy schedules and cordial interactions with your co-parent/ex-spouse.

In my nearly 20 years as a New Jersey divorce and family law attorney I have helped countless clients work out their parenting time and child custody plans. This planning always involves the division of holiday time, and usually includes times and locations of where children will be dropped off or picked-up. I always tell my clients that while there may always be some awkwardness during these exchanges, it is always in the best interest of the children and the parents’ sanity to make them as civil as possible.

Clearly, I was not the attorney helping Halle Berry and her co-parent/ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry. Just in case you missed it, things did not go smoothly at Berry house Thanksgiving morning. While Aubry was dropping off their daughter, Barry’s fiancé made a reference to a recent court battle (Halle wants to move the child to France). The dad and fiancé exchanged words and fists, and police were called to the home. After all was said and done, both men were in the hospital with cuts, a broken rib, and bruises. By the end of the ordeal, a temporary restraining order issued, and Aubry, the father, is not only forbidden from seeing his child but also from coming within 100 feet of the daughter, Halle, and her fiancé. Most striking, a child witnessed violence, and that is inexcusable.

I had the opportunity to be part of a much more civil exchange on Thanksgiving night.

As I shared last week, over Thanksgiving dinner, my girlfriend’s children met my family for the first time. We had a fantastic time at my house including a meal with all the trimmings (my first turkey brining experiment was a great success) and the festivities concluded with an extensive trivia battle over pumpkin pie. Shortly after my family left it was time for Jen’s kids to go off with their dad for the rest of the weekend, and he was coming to my home to pick them up. This is exactly the type of hand-off I have negotiated, and the first time I was going to be part of the action.

My girlfriend and her ex-husband have a very peaceful relationship revolving around what is best for the children. They are in constant communication about schedules, academics, and activities. But, in my experience, the holidays can bring up great emotions and I was putting lots of energy on us all having a very positive experience.
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Your children are wearing their pajamas inside out and backwards, the white crayon is in the freezer, the spoon is under their pillow, ice cubes have been flushed down the toilet and thrown in a tree…the children sit, with anticipation for the snow to start to fall, and hope their superstitious preparations work. As a single divorced parent you sit and wonder if school will be closed or the opening delayed and how that will impact your workday.

For many New Jersey divorced parents, snow days are usually a struggle. Over the past two weeks I have been talking with clients regarding how they weathered Hurricane Sandy and kept in contact with their co-parent. Those that were most successful had a very clear plan in place to deal with emergencies, they remained calm, and were reasonable when communication lines were down and roads impassable. These types of plans are not part of your child custody arrangements but rather fall into your parenting time agreements.

The lesson learned from Sandy is that you can never be too prepared. Since we have already had one significant snowstorm here in NJ, When you hear of an impending storm, you and your co-parent should communicate about how to handle a delayed opening or school closing. Several factors can be considered:

  • Can either parent work from home either for the full-day or a few hours?
  • If the roads are safe, can the parents split the day?
  • Are the children old enough to spend time by themselves?
  • Is there a neighbor who can babysit for a few hours?
  • Can you call a friend for a favor to help out?
  • Going forward, how can you alternate days off so one parent doesn’t use precious vacation and personal time. How do you want to make-up parenting time and work that was missed?
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