Custody and parenting time disputes can occur when parties have a child outside of marriage, decide to separate or divorce (pre-divorce temporary custody) or after a divorce or separation is complete. If parties agree on custody and later require a modification, the proposed modification must be based on a change in circumstances for the court to review the proposed change.
Parties have various options to work towards resolutions on parenting time and custody disputes that may not require a trip to court. Mediation, Friend of the Court and Parenting Coordinators may be utilized prior to litigation.
Custody is complicated. There are eleven factors the courts look at before determining custody for a minor child. The factors considered are:
- Love, affection, and other emotional ties between each parent and the child
- The capacity of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue the education and raising of the child in its religion or creed, if any
- The ability of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care, and other material needs
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes
- The moral fitness of each parent
- The mental and physical health of each parent
- The child’s home, school, and community record
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court rules that the child is old enough to express a preference
- The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent
- Whether domestic violence has occurred in or outside the child’s presence.
Child Support Modifications
Child support can be modified when the parties have a change in circumstances. In general support can be modified for the following reasons: increase or loss of income, or a change in the parenting time schedule.
Change of Domicile and Interstate Custody Orders
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act allows parties to transfer or move cases from one State to another if certain criteria are met. The Act also allows some individuals to file a case for divorce or custody on an emergency basis without meeting the standard timeline for jurisdiction. Interstate family law issues can be daunting and a meeting with an attorney is advised to discuss any interstate custody issues that arise for a client.
More than one million children each year are affected by divorce and family separation. Half of these children will be raised in families where parents remain in conflict. Many of these parents engage in ongoing litigation over their children for years.
Children raised in an atmosphere of conflict are four to five times as likely to grow-up with serious emotional and behavioral difficulties. Not only are high-conflict cases damaging to innocent children, they require an inordinate amount of court time.
In order to minimize the adverse effects of divorce on children and families, many parents are encouraged or court ordered to work with a parenting coordinator.
Parenting Coordination is a non-confidential, child centered process for conflicted divorced and divorcing parents. It is a form of dispute resolution for parents in which mediation would be inappropriate or ineffective due to high levels of conflict.
Through education, mediation and case management, the family’s progress is monitored to ensure that parents are fulfilling their obligations to their child while complying with the recommendations of the court.
With prior approval of the parties and/or the Court, the PC may have the authority to make limited decisions, within the scope of the court order, to assist high-conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own. The role of the parenting coordinator is outlined by the authority granted in the court order or the stipulation of the parties.