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What Is The New Jersey Parent’s Education Program?

The New Jersey legislature created the New Jersey Parent’s Education Program in 1999 as a mandatory education program for all parents who are going through a divorce in which custody, visitation, or support of a minor child is at issue. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-12.1-12.8. Both parents must comply with this education requirement before the court will enter judgment in their case. If a parent fails to participate in the required education program, a court may consider that failure as a factor in any custody and visitation decision. Each parent must pay a $25 registration fee as a part of the divorce filing fee, which goes into the Parents’ Education Fund to support the education program. A government-appointed advisory committee reviews the program each year in order to create a fresh and updated curriculum and guidelines for the education program.

The main point of the program is to educate divorcing parents about how to both protect and parent their children during their divorce proceedings. The curriculum reminds parents to put their children’s needs and interests in front of their own and be particularly sensitive to their children’s emotions. The program focuses on helping parents being more responsive to their children’s needs and working to normalize and stabilize the new family structure that necessarily follows a divorce. Additionally, the program curriculum focuses on teaching parents to cooperate in raising their children and resolving any issues related to their children that might arise during or following the divorce. Finally, the program teaches parents about the divorce or separation process in general, their financial responsibilities for their children, and the resources that are available to assist them and their children in dealing with the divorce.

Attending the Parent’s Education Program is only a small part of the New Jersey divorce process. No matter how complex the issues in your family’s 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.

Mental Health and Child Custody Issues

If you are a parent, you know how difficult and demanding it is to be a parent, particularly at certain points in your child’s life. The responsibilities and stress involved in raising a child can be problematic for a parent with mental health issues. While there are many parents with mental health conditions who are great parents, the fact is that a parent’s mental health condition can negatively impact his or her ability to parent, especially if the condition remains untreated. As a result, a parent’s mental health condition, to the extent that it affects a parent’s fitness or ability to properly parent a child, is one of the factors that a New Jersey judge can and will consider in making a custody determination that is in a child’s best interests .

A parent with a mental health disorder does not automatically bar him or her from having custody of a child. The fact that a parent has a mental health condition does not necessarily mean that contact with that parent is not in the child’s best interests. So long as the parent can remain an active, involved parent while still managing his or her mental condition appropriately, and does not put the child at risk of physical or psychological harm, that parent’s mental health disorder may not affect his or her ability to obtain or maintain custody of a child.

In a child custody case, a judge is likely to consider the following issues related to a parent’s mental health:

  • The nature of the parent’s mental health condition
  • Whether the parent is compliant with the recommended course of treatment
  • The stability of the parent’s home environment
  • A history of the parent being hospitalized
  • Recommendations from mental health providers and custody evaluators

Child custody cases can become very emotional and difficult, and even more so when mental health issues are involved. We know how to handle child custody cases that involve mental health concerns and can help you work toward the most desirable outcome in your case. Whether your case involves mental health or another family law-related concern, our New Jersey child custody attorneys can guide you through every step of the proceedings necessary to resolving your legal matter. Our role is to be here to answer all of your questions, calm your concerns, present your potential options, and help you to make any necessary decisions in your case. At Argentino Family Law & Advocacy, LLC, we have represented the interests of countless families and children in all types of family law proceedings. Contact our office today at (973) 868-0958 or by e-mail at info@argentinolaw.com and set up a time to talk with us about your case.

Will Other States Recognize My New Jersey Civil Union?

Under New Jersey law, a civil union is a legally recognized status for same-sex couples. Participants in a civil union have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples in the state of New Jersey. However, a civil union is not the same thing as a marriage but a separate relationship status. The New Jersey legislature created civil unions by statute in 2006 in order to provide same-sex couples with the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. The Civil Union Act became effective in 2007. Obviously, legislators in New Jersey enacted the Civil Union Act prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, which occurred in conjunction with a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling of Garden State Equality v. Dow in October of 2013.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, state laws banning same-sex marriage and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages legally entered into other states were invalidated as violations of due process and equal protection rights. Given the fact that same-sex marriages are now legal in all states, and all states must recognize the same-sex marriages of other states, it is unclear whether civil unions should still be permitted for same-sex couples. Nonetheless, a civil union remains a legal possibility in the state of New Jersey; a civil union also is likely to be recognized as valid in other states that also have legislation regarding civil unions. However, it is unclear whether other states that don’t have a civil union law still will recognize civil unions, or whether it is necessary at this point. For instance, the states of Delaware and Rhode Island formerly had laws providing for civil unions replaced those laws with same-sex marriage legislation in 2013.

Interstate cases can quickly become complex, and you will find that legal assistance is necessary to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case. 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, from civil unions to dissolutions of marriage, from second parent adoptions to child custody cases. The lawyers at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, regularly handle all types of 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 your legal 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.

Clarifying Misconceptions About New Jersey Divorce Law

The general public often has many misconceptions about the divorce process and laws pertaining to divorce in general. People tend to rely on their neighbors, friends, and relatives in continuing to pass along these misconceptions. We want to ensure that you know what to expect if you are currently facing a divorce or may file for divorce in the future. As a result, we are here to set the record straight on some of the most misconceptions about New Jersey divorce law.

First, many individuals assume that they must be physically separated from their spouse for a period of 18 months in order to get divorced in the state of New Jersey. While “18-month separation” is one basis for divorce, there is really no required lengthy of a waiting period for most divorce cases. The no-fault grounds for divorce in New Jersey not only includes 18-month separation, but also includes “irreconcilable differences.” A New Jersey divorce based on irreconcilable differences requires only that the filing party certify that the parties suffered irreconcilable differences for at least 6 months prior to filing.  Notably, no explanation of the differences the parties experienced is required and the parties do not have to be physically separated or living apart to pursue divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2.

Next, some individuals believe that alimony is only a possibility after your marriage has hit the ten-year mark or some other relationship marker. However, there is no law that requires parties to be married for any length of time before a court can issue an alimony award in a divorce proceeding. Rather, New Jersey law sets forth a number of different factors that the court must consider in establishing an alimony award, and while the court may consider the length of the parties’ marriage when considering the factors for determining alimony, there is no minimum number of years of marriage required to be eligible for alimony.  However, the alimony statute lays out that except in special circumstances or marriages exceeding 20 years, a term of alimony may not exceed the length of the marriage.

As you can see, there are many misconceptions about New Jersey divorce law. This is why you always should consult a New Jersey divorce attorney about your rights and obligations under New Jersey law. We are here to help you make the decisions in your case that will best benefit you and your family in your legal matter. We are here to answer your questions, ease your mind, and help guide you through what is likely to be a difficult proceeding. At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, we handle many different legal issues that relate to families and children. Contact our office today and see how we can assist you with your New Jersey divorce and spousal support case.

Remedies Under the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act

The New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABR) (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et. seq.) establishes procedures for school districts and the New Jersey Department of Education to handle incidents of bullying, harassment, and intimidation. The ABR covers bullying incidents that take place on school grounds, at school events, on school buses, or even off school grounds, if the incident substantially interferes or disrupts school operations or the rights of other students. In order to qualify as bullying, the incident must be reasonably perceived as being motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, a mental, physical, or sensory disability, or any other distinguishing characteristic.

Under the ABR, a school district must immediately notify the parents of all suspected offenders and suspected victims as soon as possible following a complaint of bullying. If the complainant is a school employee, contractor, or volunteer, the complainant must create a written report. A school official must begin an investigation into the incident no later than one school day following the report, and the investigation must be complete within ten school days of the written report. The Chief School Administrator (CSA) then must take one of the following actions:

  • Impose discipline
  • Provide intervention services
  • Create training programs related to bullying
  • Order counseling
  • Take any other action necessary to address the incident and prevent future incidents

Next, the CSA must report the incident and the results of the investigation to the Board of Education by the first board meeting following the completion of the investigation. Within five days after the results of the investigation are reported to the Board of Education, the CSA must provide information regarding the investigation and its outcome to the parents.

If parents are unhappy with the investigation or its outcome, they have the right to request a hearing before the Board of Education. See Guidance for Parents on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. A hearing must be held within ten days of the date that a parent requested it. Following the hearing, the Board of Education must produce a written decision that either upholds, rejects, or changes the CSA’s decision. If the parents disagree with the Board’s decision, they can further appeal to the Commission of Education within 90 days of the Board’s decision. Parents who are dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision then can appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Parents have other options to protect their students’ rights, as well. For instance, a parent could file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights Under the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), if there is reason to believe that the bullying was motivated by one of LAD’s bias categories. Parents also can take their complaints and concerns to their county office of education, which is the representative of the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) in each county. If they believe that there has been a violation of the law, parents also have the option of calling the police and reporting the alleged crime.

At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC , our attorneys are here to handle all of the different issues that involve families and children, including bullying. We understand how difficult and stressful these types of cases can be in some situations, but we are here to help guide you through these and any other family-related legal proceedings that you may be facing. Contact our offices today to schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced New Jersey lawyers and see what we can do to help with your case.