A question as sensitive as where a child will live or which parent will make decisions regarding the child's health care may bring a couple negotiating a divorce or parenting plan to an apparent impasse. Allowing that dispute to escalate or become a protracted battle will inevitably harm the child at the center of the controversy. At Hanan M. Isaacs, P.C. in Kingston, our attorneys are deeply committed to helping our clients negotiate custody agreements in the most productive and least damaging way possible.
Is child custody mediation or arbitration right for you?
If it is in your child's best interests to take an aggressive stance regarding custody, our attorneys are well-prepared to do so and will not hesitate to go to court. Relying on a family court judge to determine what is best for the family is, however, very much like throwing dice — there is the possibility of a resolution that leaves everyone unhappy. A child custody agreement worked out through mediation, arbitration or another collaborative process is nearly always preferable to one imposed by the court. Our lawyers also provide related services, including coaching clients in preparation for mediation, calling on psychological experts to perform independent evaluations, and patiently negotiating with opposing counsel to minimize the number and complexity of issues that must be resolved by the trial judge. We guide our recommendations based on the clients' needs, the children's needs, the urgency of the matters presented, and what we believe is the best combination of methods and timing to solve the problems presented.
Legal custody, shared custody, sole custody
In New Jersey, sole custody means that one of the parties takes the vast majority of overnight time with a child or children, and makes all of the major decisions affecting a child's health, education, and welfare. Sometimes, one parent has sole physical custody of a child, but shares decision making with the other parent. Many couples opt for shared custody in New Jersey, which typically means that the child lives with a parent of primary residence (PPR) and spends 28% to 50% of the time with the parent of alternate residence (PAR). The specific amounts of overnight, holiday, and vacation time are negotiated with the help of a mediator and the parties' attorneys, or are determined by a Family Court Judge based on "the best interests of the child." There are 16 statutory factors that parties, mediators, legal counsel, and the court will review in the process of deciding custody and parenting time issues.
Sibling and grandparents' rights and parenting time
Grandparents and siblings over 18 have an inherent interest in maintaining relationships with minor children living in a household, where a natural parent or step-parent opposes such contacts. Our attorneys help family members assess their rights to contact, over the objection of a parent or step-parent, to see whether discontinued contacts will harm the minor children. In appropriate cases, we also will help objecting parents or step-parents determine their rights to oppose unwanted contacts with family members, based on probable harm to minor children. In either case, we will assist families in preparing for negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or a court hearing.
Postjudgment modification and child relocation
Many times, circumstances of the parties and the children change after a final custody order is entered. This often happens when children decide they wish to change primary residential households, or when a primary custodial parent decides to move far away from the other parent, either in New Jersey, elsewhere in the United States, or even to an overseas residence. In such cases, our attorneys will review the facts, research the law, and petition the court to modify a custody agreement, or, in appropriate cases, oppose the other party's request for modification and removal.
If you would like to speak to a member of our firm regarding representation in child custody proceedings, or have any other question about our practice, please contact our office to arrange a consultation. We accept credit cards and offer general appointments from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, plus evening appointments during the week by pre-arrangement only.