Blog

Raising a child when you are not their legal parent

Many stepparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even non-relatives across the nation have had to step up in recent years and raise children who were not born to them. This situation might occur if a legal parent is incarcerated, or unable to care for a child due to his or her drug addiction. Whatever the case may be, it is sometimes the best option for a child to be raised by a person other than a legal parent. The role that these people take on with respect to the children varies from one case to the next, as there are different options when you have care and custody of child of whom you are not a legal parent. One common option for a person who is providing long-term care for a child is kinship legal guardianship. N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-1.

In the state of New Jersey, any individual who meets certain conditions can apply for kinship legal guardianship, which gives him or her certain legal rights with respect to a child. You may qualify to apply for kinship legal guardianship if you meet the following conditions:

  • The child has been in your care for at least 12 months.
  • The biological parents of the child cannot care for him or her.
  • You have a legal, biological or emotional relationship with the child.
  • You are financially able to care for the child.
  • It is in the child’s best interests for him or her to remain in your care.

Kinship legal guardianship is an option when an individual needs to care for a child of whom they are not a legal parent on a long-term basis, and is more stable than foster care, which is meant to be temporary and involves a great deal of oversight by the state. Unlike adoption, kinship legal guardianship does not terminate the biological/legal parents’ rights. Kinship legal guardianship also automatically terminates when the child either graduates from high school or turns 18 years of age.

When you are raising a child of whom you are not a legal parent, your rights to that child may vary widely from one situation to the next. We know how difficult, complicated, and emotionally draining all types of family law cases can be. Contact Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, today and we will show you how we can help with your New Jersey divorce case. Our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law and issues related to children, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your family law case. We are here to answer your questions, settle your concerns, and assist you through the often difficult process of contested divorce and family law cases.

What Are the Sanctions for Not Abiding By a Child Custody Order?

Once a court issues an order on child custody, you might breathe a sigh of relief at the resolution of your case. However, in highly contested and ongoing custody matters, a court order is rarely a final resolution. Inevitably, one or both parents will claim that the other parent violated the court order in some manner. As some violations of child custody orders can be very serious, it is often hard to know where to turn first for help. This is why an experienced child custody lawyer is the first person you should consult when your child’s other parent violates a child custody order.

Some examples of common violations of child custody orders include the following:

·         One parent prevents the other parent from seeing the child according to the terms of a parenting time schedule that the parties previously agreed upon.

·         One parent refuses to allow the other parent to have reasonable communications with the child when in his or her custody, via telephone, emails, text messages, or Skype visits.

·         One parent fails to inform the child’s school and doctor that the other parent should have equal access to the child’s educational and medical records.

Parents often wonder if violation of a court order will result in the other parent being ordered to pay a fine, provide make-up parenting time for the time that was missed, pay attorney’s fees, or even be thrown in jail, in extreme cases. Fortunately, New Jersey law does provide some remedies for individuals in this situation.

New Jersey Rule of Court 1:10-3 allows a parent to seek a remedy for violation of a child custody order. The rule clearly establishes that any sanctions against a parent that a court awards must be coercive, rather than punitive in nature. New Jersey Rule of Court 5:3-7 sets forth the potential remedies under this rule, which may include payment of fines, payment of attorney’s fees, and even a term of incarceration that is designed to coerce the parent into complying with the child support order. Likewise, the court can order make-up parenting time between a parent and child, modify the existing transportation agreements, require that all exchanges of the child occur in a public place, order the parent to perform community service, and even modify the existing order, if doing so would be in the child’s best interests.

Child custody cases tend to be extremely difficult and emotional for all parties involved, and these cases only become more stressful when a parent violates a court order. Legal assistance is necessary to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome for your family. Furthermore, we understand that no two families are the same, so we treat you as a person with a family and with unique concerns and needs.  The bottom line is that we are here to help you through whatever family law matter you are facing. The lawyers at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, regularly handle family law, divorce, and other cases involving children. Contact our experienced attorneys today so that we can get started on the work that is necessary to resolve any child custody matter. With our lawyers at your side, you will be able to make important decisions about your family from a position of knowledge, confidence, and strength.

Why Should I Ask the Court to Seal the Record for My Child’s Name Change?

As a general rule, records of a child’s name change are open to the public. New Jersey law generally requires that the proposed name changes of both adults and children be published in order to provide public notice to creditors and other interested parties. However, there are situations in which a court may seal its records of a child’s name change, as well as eliminate the publication requirement for a name change case. Normally, notice of the name change must be published twice in a newspaper of general circulation, once prior to the name change hearing and once after the name change hearing.

At least one New Jersey case, The Application of E.F.G. to Assume a New Name, 398 N.J. Super. 539 (App.  Div. 2008), provides that public notice of a name change through publication may not be a requirement in some circumstances, such as when the person seeking to change his or her name has been a victim of domestic violence. If a victim’s right to protect himself or herself and his or her identity is a sufficiently compelling interest, the court also can order that the court records relating to the name change be sealed, which means that they are not available for public viewing. New Jersey Rule of Court 1:2-1. This precaution prevents the abusive person from discovering the current address and new name of the victim. If you are seeking to seal name change records for your child, you must demonstrate a well-founded concern for your child’s safety if his or her name change records were to be made public. Therefore, if a child has suffered past abuse or violence at the hands of a parent, relative, or other adult, it may be in the child’s best interests for the court records to be sealed.

The New Jersey family law attorneys at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, are eager to answer your questions and help you understand the procedures for changing your child’s name, as well as sealing the court record. As your attorneys, we will focus on how best to represent your interests and achieve your desired goals. We have handled countless name change, parentage, divorce, and other family law proceedings over the years, and we will work with you to create the best strategy possible in your case. Call our offices today at (973) 868-0958 and learn how we can help you with your New Jersey family law case.

Alimony in Divorce Cases

Alimony is court-ordered financial support that one spouse pays to the other spouse after the divorce is final. The purpose of alimony is to ensure that both spouses maintain the same standard of living following a divorce as they did during their marriage. A spouse who receives alimony would be the spouse who did not work or further his or her education during the marriage, or was the lesser wage earner as between the two parties.  As a result, that spouse was financially dependent on the higher earning spouse. A spouse who pays alimony typically was the higher wage earner during the parties’ marriage.

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) sets forth 14 different factors that a court must consider when issuing an alimony award. These factors include the following:

  • The needs of the spouse receiving the alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay it
  • The duration of the marriage or civil union, as the duration of the alimony payments cannot exceed the duration of the marriage or civil union
  • The age, physical health, and emotional health of the parties
  • The parties’ standard of living during their marriage
  • The earning capacities and educational levels of each party
  • The length of time that either spouse has been absent from the job market
  • The parental responsibilities of each spouse
  • The time and expense necessary for a spouse to receive adequate education and training
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, whether financial or non-financial
  • Equitable property distribution
  • Income available to either party through the investment of assets
  • The tax consequences for an alimony award on each party, as alimony is taxable income for the party receiving it and tax-deductible for the party paying it
  • The nature and duration of any pendent lite support paid, which are interim alimony payments made while the divorce proceedings are pending
  • Any other factor that the court considers to be relevant

There are four different types of alimony awards available in the state of New Jersey. Limited duration alimony provides for alimony payments for a certain period of time that does not exceed the length of the marriage. This type of alimony is generally for marriages that lasted for less than 20 years. Reimbursement alimony is ordered when one spouse supported the household financially while the other spouse furthered his or her education. Rehabilitative alimony allows a spouse to receive alimony payments while he or she is going through the training or education needed to improve his or her job prospects. Rehabilitative alimony can include the payment of the costs of the education or training, as well. Finally, open durational alimony is generally reserved for cases involving marriages that lasted 20 years or more when one spouse has unequal or present future earnings capacity in comparison to the other spouse or when there is some other special circumstance that would warrant such relief.

Divorce cases are never easy, and the financial uncertainty that divorce often causes can quickly make you feel overwhelmed. During times like these, it is hard to make the decisions that are truly best for you and your family, particularly when it comes to emotionally-charged issues like alimony. It is in these kinds of cases that a New Jersey family lawyer can be most useful to you and truly make a difference in the outcome of your case. Visit our website at http://argentinolaw.com. You also can email us at info@argentinolaw.com, and one of our staff members will get back to you right away.

Termination of Child Support Law Changes and How it Affects You

In 2016, New Jersey Governor Christie signed a bill relating to the termination of child support into law. This law went into effect on February 1, 2017, and it applies to all New Jersey child support orders. The law generally establishes that a parent’s duty of child support and medical support terminates when the child reaches 19 years of age. N.J.S.A. § 2A:17-56.67 to 56.73. A child support obligation also terminates if a child passes away, marries, or enters the military service. However, there are a number of exceptions that can result in a parent’s child support and medical support obligations to continue up until the child’s 23rd birthday.

For instance, a child support or medical support obligation can last beyond the child’s 19th birthday in the following situations:

  • The child is still a high school student or enrolled in another secondary educational program.
  • The child is attending college, vocational school, or graduate school on a full-time basis.
  • The child was mentally and physically disabled prior to the age of 19, as determined by a federal or state governmental agency, and needs continued support.
  • The parties agreed to an alternate support termination date.
  • The court otherwise granted a period of continued support.

The termination of child support law also provides that no child support can continue after a child reaches the age of 23. Nonetheless, a court still can order a parent to pay for certain expenses related to raising and supporting the child past his or her 23rd birthday. For example, a court may order a parent to pay for a disabled child’s medical expenses or a portion of a college student’s tuition. However, this sort of order is considered to be financial maintenance rather than child support under New Jersey law.  A court also can order a parent to maintain health insurance coverage for a child up to his or her 23rd birthday. Plus, either parent can voluntarily continue to provide health insurance for a child up to age 26, or in the state of New Jersey, up to the age of 31, if the situation meets certain criteria.

While New Jersey child support termination laws are relatively straightforward, but every  case is different. Individual facts and circumstances can result in drastically different results from one  case to the next. No matter how complex the issues in your case may be, however, we always will be here to help. The attorneys of Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, have handled cases involving all aspects of divorce, child custody, and parentage cases, as well as cases involving a multitude of other matters related to families and children. Please contact the experienced New Jersey family and child lawyers at our office if you have any legal questions about children and your family.