Over the course of my career as a New Jersey divorce attorney, countless clients have confided in me that the only reason they stayed married was because of the children. Some of these folks make it until the children reach adulthood. However, for various reasons, many simply can not “make it to the finish line.” If you are considering a New Jersey divorce, here are a few things to consider as to how this major life change may affect your children.
1. What type of person is your soon-to-be ex-spouse? Is he or she a fit parent to care for your children pursuant to New Jersey’s best interest of a child standard? These are questions to ask yourself, not just for the judge to evaluate. If you know that your soon-to-be ex has a history of alcohol abuse and/or drug abuse or still has the problem, bring that to your attorney’s attention. Children will be overwhelmed enough during your divorce so it is vital to keep them as calm as possible. New Jersey family courts pride themselves on keeping children’s lives as normal as possible post-divorce. Therefore, if one parent is clearly unfit and irresponsible, he or she may not be entitled to custody.
2. New partners in the picture. It is upsetting enough for kids to learn that their parents are breaking up. If you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse have started seeing someone else, try not to bring that person around your kids to start. It might confuse them; they will wonder if that new person is supposed to be their new mom or dad or might hate the person if they believe he or she is the cause of the break up.
3. Avoid badmouthing your soon-to-be ex-spouse to your kids. The more you tell your children how awful the other parent is; they will start to believe it. This type of scenario illustrates parental alienation. If you alienate your ex, your children will do the same, which can lead to difficulty in visitation custody.
4. Money. Finances always can become an issue during a divorce, especially if children are involved. Not only will one spouse probably be entitled to alimony, but one will also receive child support payments depending on who is the custodial parent. Child support is something to help keep your children accustomed to the lifestyle they have grown used to. Keep in mind though, just because one parent is receiving child support does not mean that he or she doesn’t have to contribute at all in terms of finances. Plan wisely!
5. Parenting schedule. You will have to develop a parenting schedule so that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse know what days and times the kids will be with each of you. It is important to map out on the schedule activities and extracurriculars your children engage in on a daily basis. In addition to daily routines, the parenting schedule should consider holidays and birthdays. For more on that, please read my piece “How Should I Handle The Holiday Parenting Time And Child Custody With My Children.”
6. Healthcare. This is a huge issue that arises in divorce cases involving children. If your children take any medications, it is important to make sure that both parents know how to administer the meds if needed. Also, who will pay for the medication? Which parent will pay for the children’s health insurance? These are all vital issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible as a child’s health is a top priority always.
7. School. Determining what type of school to send your children to is the final thing I encourage you and your soon-to-be ex to consider. Will the children go to private school, public school, or boarding school? What about religious school or vocation school? Not only will you have to answer these questions, but also it is important to decide who will pay for school supplies, uniforms etc.
While this list is not comprehensive, it is y a great start to developing your own personal checklist. Of course, as there are always so many issues involving children in divorce, please never hesitate to call my office if you would like to discuss your concerns. Thank you.