Divorce Myth #2* – The Non Custodial Parent Only Gets Alternating Weekends
There is a common perception that the parent who does not have primary residential custody is limited to only seeing the children on alternating weekends. The reality is that there are no set rules concerning specific parenting time schedules. Some parties agree to not establish a specific schedule. Instead, the non custodial parent would see the children by way of changing mutual agreement. On the other end of the spectrum, some parents micro manage the schedule down to each hour of each day. And, there are countless variations between these two extreme situations. There is no "right" or "wrong" schedule under the law. Instead, the parenting time schedule should be in the best interest of the child under the circumstances that exist in your particular case.
From a practical stand point, the schedule that you pick should be convenient for both parties and the children. For example, if the parents live thirty minute away from each other and the non custodial parent would need to get the children up at 5:00 a.m. in order to get them to school on time then perhaps the parents should be careful with scheduling overnights on school nights.
There has been a trend lately for more true shared arrangements whereby the parties essentially share residential custody 50/50%. The primary advantage is that each parent will have a substantial amount of time with the children. The primary disadvantage is that you have the children essentially living out of a suitcase. This impact needs to be examined carefully.
This is not to say that there should absolutely be no parenting time during the school week. Even if it is inconvenient for the children to stay overnight with the non custodial parent during the week, arrangements can be made for non-overnight parenting time after school/work until bed time. Again, whatever arrangement that works best for everyone.
There are two other common myths that are encompassed under a discussion about parenting time schedules. The first is that there is a certain age when a child is able to choose if they have to go with the non custodial parent for the scheduled time. Although age thirteen is frequently suggested, the reality is that there is no specific age as there is no specific provision which allows a child to entirely dictate the parenting time schedule. While it is desirable for the parents to take the wishes of the child into consideration when setting or adjusting the schedule, there is no legal provision which allows the child to reject the schedule that was chosen.
The second related myth is that one parent has the power to dictate what the other parent does, or does not do, during their scheduled time. But for obvious exclusions, a parent is free to do what they want to do during their parenting time with the children. However, most judges will make exceptions as they pertain to things such as extracurricular activities. A common cited analogy is a child that plays soccer on a team in town. It is unfair to the child if their participation in soccer is limited to only the times they are with the one parent who signed them up. Common sense should prevail in these types of situations.
*This is the second article in a ten part series exploring the most common myths concerning divorce law in New Jersey.
All of the attorneys at Domers & Bonamassa are well versed and have years of experience addressing family law issues, no matter how complicated. Contact us today at (856) 596-2888 for a private consultation. We appear in the following counties: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Mercer, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May. Our practice areas include: divorce, custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, domestic violence, college expenses, equitable distribution, name changes, step parent adoptions, paternity issues, child abuse and neglect, prenuptial agreements, mediation and arbitration.
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