Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C.
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Posts tagged "custody"

Holidays and Custody

When it comes to holidays and custody, the courts generally will alternate the holidays so that one parent has the children in even years and the other parent has the children in odd years. Easter is usually only considered as a Sunday holiday not an overnight the night before. It is important, however, to always think about the children and parents can always design their own holiday schedule instead of leaving it up to the Courts. If both parties enjoy having Easter morning with baskets, you may want to alternate the Saturday into the Sunday. You may also want to split the day much like you with Christmas so that one parent has the night before and morning the other parent has the other half of the day into the next morning. Even children who do not have parents who are divorced are often shuffled on holidays between homes of in-laws, other relatives, etc. It is important to think about the children and what is in their best interests. When is it is not practical to share the holiday, a good alternative would be to Skype or facetime with the other party and family so that they can share in the celebration by video.

Typical Child Custody Schedule for Holidays

In any childs custody case, it is best if the parties design their own custody schedule so that they have more control over the personal considerations in each of their families as well as to include some days that may not be considered an official holiday for court custody purposes. When, however, communication has broken down and it is not possible to come to an agreement even on holidays, the court will often in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have a routine method of determining holidays. In some counties, it is a pre-printed holiday list that the parties will receive. In others, it is a generally conceived concept. In most cases, the court will alternate holidays on an odd year/even year basis rotating the holiday every year so both parents will have time alternating years. For some holidays, such as Christmas, the court will usually break the holiday into two parts. One parent will have Christmas Eve until Christmas Day and the other parent will have Christmas Day until the Day after and this will alternate each year to allow both parents the opportunity to have Christmas morning every other year.

Ways to Stay Connecting in Custody Cases

One of the sad realities of divorcing when you have children is that there will be times when they will not be with you, sometimes, large periods of time if you are the parent with partial custody or even when you share joint physical custody. Sometimes, grandparents are also faced with separation from grandchildren due to divorce, death of their adult child, or incarceration of their adult child. Although you cannot always be with your child or grandchild, there are things that you can do to ensure that you are still connected to their life on a regular basis.

Living Together During Divorce

Sometimes when parties are divorcing, they continue to reside together under one roof while the divorce is pending. This can be the situation for many reasons. One reason may be that neither party has sufficient income to live on their own. It may be that all their funds are tied up into the house and they do not have a significant payment to put down on another residence. Sometimes, they both want to keep the house in the divorce. In others, it may be that neither wants to move out when there are children involved. Whatever the reason, it can be very difficult to live together while the you are divorcing and setting some ground rules may be in order.

Dating During and After the Divorce

When you are going through a divorce, you may wonder whether you should be dating and if you do how it will impact your case. Once you are separated, even though the divorce is not yet final, you are permitted to date without it being considered grounds for adultery in the legal arena. While adultery is a factor in the consideration of an award of alimony, it refers to relationships that began prior to a separation not after. Once a divorce complaint is filed you are clearly separated and for some that may now involve the choice to date. If you are entitled to support or alimony, you may date both during the divorce or afterwards. As long as you do not cohabitate, it will not affect your alimony award. Cohabitation can be found even if the other person has their own residence if they spend significant overnights with you.

When a Parent withholds custody

As detrimental as it is to the children of a separation or a divorce, sometimes one parent chooses to withhold the children from the other parent. They may feel they are the better parent and are protecting the children. They may just be angry and want to use the children as pawns to get back at the other parent. They may feel they have the right to determine the custody schedule for various reasons. Regardless of why a parent is withholding the children and keeping them from the other parent it is not something that either parent should take into their own hands. If you are the parent who is not seeing your children, you need to immediately file for emergency custody in the county where the children reside if they have been there for at least six months. If the children have not bee in that state or county for six months, then you need to file emergency relief in the state or county where they last resided for six months. If your ex moved out of state with the children less than six months prior, you will want to also seek relief that includes returning the children to the state, and possibly alerting the authorities if the other parent did not disclose their whereabouts. Waiting to file with the court can impact your case as the court will question why something was not done sooner. In addition, you should record all attempts that you make to contact the children both before and after you file. This could be text messages, letters sent to the house, phone calls made, and attempts to visit. You should be careful, however, in remaining calm as sometimes the other parent will then allege harassment or file a Protection from Abuse in an attempt to further gain control in custody. As difficult as it will be waiting to get into court, the sooner you file the sooner the court can remedy the situation.

Stepparents and Custodial Rights

Under the custody laws, when parents split up, both parents often will go to court or come to an agreement on a custody schedule. What happens, when a parent and a non-biological parent separate? Oftentimes, the non-biological parent may have been very involved in the child or children's lives. If that non-biological parent did not adopt the child, they can still sue for visitation and/or custody of the child or children under in loco parentis. This means that they have the right to go to court to seek scheduled time with the children, be that primary custody, partial custody or visitation even though they are not the biological parent and even if both biological parents have their own custody schedule.

Custody and Incarceration

What happens to a child when their parent goes to prison? If a child is placed with the state agency, such as Children and Youth, a parent may still be able to visit with their child during the time that the parent is incarcerated. It is important for an incarcerated parent to do everything possible to maintain contact with their child and to be active in order to protect their parental rights. Failure to maintain contact or interest can result in a termination of parental rights and adoption if the child is in agency care. Even if visits do not occur, it is important to write, request information about the child, attend hearings and take parenting classes while in prison. If drug and alcohol abuse is an issue, it is important to seek help while incarcerated through the programs offered through the prison.

Planning foreign travel with children when separated

If you are separated and plan to travel out of state with your child, you will need to make sure that you have a passport and that you have permission from the court. In order to obtain a passport you will need consent from both parents and signatures. If your custody order does not provide for travel out of the country which most do not, then you will need to also obtain consent from the other parent in writing with specifics on the travel or you will need to obtain permission from the court if the other parent objects. In most instances when a parent objects to out of the country travel, the parent wanting to travel will have to establish the necessity and that it is in the best interests of the child. Oftentimes, the court errs on the side of caution and denies the request. Taking a child out of the country imposes many risks when parents are separated, depending on which country you intend to travel. These risks include the difficulty of enforcing a custody order should a parent decide to not return with the child. Oftentimes the court will look to see if the country is part of the Hague Convention which means that the country has signed on to enforce foreign custody orders. Even if they are part of the Hague Convention is not a guarantee for a speedy return of child. Research should be done on each country prior to traveling to see how they have treated United States custody orders. Other risks in travel include diseases, instability of a country, and requirement for certain vaccinations. If you plan to travel with a child and are separated, you will need to plan well in advance in case you need to go to court to seek permission.

Handling Custody during bad weather/sickness, use common sense

Oftentimes when you have a custody agreement, your agreement or order spells out specific times and meeting places for custody exchanges. Even the best crafted custody agreement, however, does not contemplate every situation that possibly could arise.  In these circumstances, you must often make a judgement call.  For example, if your child is burning up with a fever, it may not be in the best interest of your child to insist that they return to you for your designated custodial time.  You may want to consider your child and let them rest until they are up for travel.  With winter upon us, you may also find yourself required by your custody order to exchange your child in the middle of a snowstorm, or worse, blizzard.  Again, you should use your best judgement in deciding whether to follow the custody agreement.  This is why it is very important that parents be able to communicate with each other.  Oftentimes, you will need to make accommodations for the other parent.  You cannot expect a custody agreement or court order to resolve every possible scenario.  

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