Two Sides Of The Story

Storm is on it’s way.  I’m going nuts at the office trying to prep for the storm and get home to the babysitter to take over care of my three kids.

9 simple words via text made me breathe a sigh of relief.  My twins’ coparent (my ex), is on her way to the grocery store after work.  She text my spouse and me and simply asks “do you guys need anything from the grocery store?”

Milk, bread, eggs.

3 essential items.

0 extra minutes of her time at the store.

$11 sent from me via venmo.

Result = priceless.

Respect, thoughtfulness, what goes around comes around…

I’ve been in the car for an hour and a half.  I JUST want to get to my kids and get them home and snuggle.  Another snow storm is coming and everyone is driving like the world is coming to an end.  The grocery store is going to be a nightmare but I better stop before I get the kids and not make them go out in this twice if there’s no need.  And it’s SO MUCH easier to run in and run out without having to drag them around after they’ve already spent their whole day at school and with the babysitter.

“Do you guys need anything from the grocery store?”

I send a quick text letting them know I’ll be a little bit late. 

It only makes sense to grab anything they need too instead of having them stay with the kids while I shop and then they’d go out once I’ve picked the kids up. 

They only need a couple of items, it’s not like it’s going to make this run any more difficult.  Plus, then they actually get to spend a little bit of time with the kids before we all get snowed in.  Sometimes a few minutes is all it takes, and everyone feels good and happy and doesn’t miss each other so much.  

The groceries may not be for the kids, but the people who help take care of them are pretty important players too.  Taking care of each other has made all the difference in the world.

 

At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, we don’t only litigate or collaborate in an attorney capacity, we also serve as mediators and parent coordinators to help mend or bridge the gap in the working relationship between coparents.  Contact our office today to see how we can help your family.

Can My Child Talk to the Judge During Our Family Law Case?

Young mom with her daugher at psychologist consultation

Under New Jersey Court Rule 5:8-6, a judge may speak with a child privately during a child custody dispute. This is commonly referred to as an in camera interview. If the judge decides to conduct this interview, the attorneys for both parents may submit written questions ahead of the interview for the judge to ask the child. Following the interview, the parents are entitled to a written transcript of the interview, but neither parent may talk to the child about the interview unless the court grants permission for him or her to do so. Therefore, while a judge has the discretion to speak with a child during a child custody case, he or she must do so according to strict rules; the parties also are held to these rules.

The purpose of these detailed rules for an in camera interview is for the child to speak openly and honestly about certain aspects of the custody case. Testifying in open court in front of his or her parents may be frightening to a child, and because the parents are present, the child may not tell the entire truth for fear of disappointing or angering a parent. As a result, the child may make conflicting statements to each parent, in an attempt to tell the parent what he or she wants to hear.

In camera interviews do not occur in most custody cases. The court is more likely to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL), who is a neutral third party with expertise in children and family law cases. The GAL typically interviews all parties, including the children, and must make recommendations that he or she believes is in the children’s best interests. It is the GAL’s job to speak on behalf of the children and let all parties know about any important things that the children have said about their parents or other relevant issues. 

The family law attorneys at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, know how to handle all aspects of Washington child custody and family law cases, no matter the complexity of the issues involved. Our attorneys are involved in these types of cases as attorneys, mediators, or as guardians ad litem. We are here to help and give you the advice that you need. Contact our office by e-mailing us at info@argentinolaw.com or call us at (973) 868-0958 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family law attorneys today.

What is the Right of First Refusal or Right of First Care?

The “right of first refusal” or “right of first care” is a common provision in child custody and parenting agreements. In its most basic form, the right of first refusal means that when one parent needs child care, he or she must offer the other parent the opportunity to care for the child before contacting a babysitter or another family member to provide the care. While this seems like a reasonable provision in most cases, it may not be appropriate in some cases for a number of different reasons.

Although many parents agree to include the right of first refusal in their custody and parenting plans, other parents do not. In a case where parents cannot agree on the right of first refusal, a judge must decide whether including the right of first refusal in a parenting plan is in a child’s best interest. For instance, if the parents do not have a good relationship and have little contact with one another, a court might find that imposing the right of first refusal against one parent’s will is not in the child’s best interests. In other cases, if a parent is only may be called into work for two hours at a time during his or her time with the children, but only for an hour or two, it may be impractical to contact the other parent and request him or her to provide child care.

Therefore, having the right of first refusal is far from automatic. Not every parent has this right, and the court will not always grant a parent this right over the objection of the other parent. Courts may tend to favor the inclusion of the right of first refusal in parenting plans, particularly for extended periods of time, but they will not always require the parties to exercise it. A good example of a decision regarding the right of first refusal is found in the case of Ferrer v. Durkin, N.J. Super. App. Div., Docket No. A-4880-15T1, June 26, 2017. Although the parents had shared custody of their children, they also had a difficult relationship in which Father often argued and refused to compromise with Mother over minor aspects of their parenting agreement. The trial court declined to implement the right of first refusal as Father requested, and Father appealed. On appeal, the appellate court found that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in finding that imposing the right of first refusal in this particular case was not in the best interests of the children.

The experienced child custody and parenting time lawyers at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, are eager to answer your questions and help you understand how the right of first refusal works under New Jersey law. As your attorneys, our focus is on how to best represent you in your case and work toward your desired goals. We have handled countless child custody, divorce, and family law proceedings over the years, and we know how to assist you in reaching the best possible outcome in your case. Call our offices today at (973) 868-0958 and learn how we can help you with your New Jersey custody and parenting time case.

How Breastfeeding May Affect Parenting Time

young mother breast feeding her infant over white background

Arranging a parenting time schedule is rarely an easy task, and when a young child is still breastfeeding, scheduling sufficient time with each parent becomes even more difficult. This situation is becoming more and more common, as more mothers are choosing to exclusively breastfeed for the first months and even years of their children’s lives, simply due to the superior health benefits that result from breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding, however, can make overnight parenting difficult, if not impossible, but also can have a significant impact on daytime parenting, as well. This is particularly the case with mothers who practice “attachment parenting,” which can involve breastfeeding the child on demand, rather than on a set schedule, and continuing to breastfeed the child until the child decides to wean himself or herself.

Infants who are exclusively breastfed often reject a bottle, even if it contains breast milk. Due to the frequency with which infants must be fed, a child refusing a bottle during the other parent’s parenting time can result in frustration for both parent and child. At the same time, it is essential that the non-breastfeeding parent have the opportunity to feed and bond with the child at the earliest age possible. With no current guidance from New Jersey court rulings or statutes on the issue of breastfeeding, child custody, and parenting time, it can be difficult for a court considering the matter to decide what parenting arrangements are in the child’s best interests. While parents who live in the same geographical area may have an easier time working these issues out, it becomes even more difficult when the parents live farther apart and longer periods of parenting time are necessary. It is essential for parents of very young children to work towards keeping lines of communication and contact open to ensure the most beneficial situation possible for their child.

No matter what type of issues your family law case involves, our New Jersey family law attorneys are here to accompany you through every step of the legal proceedings in your case. We can answer your questions, evaluate your case, and go through all of the potential options for resolving your case. At Argentino Family Law & Advocacy, LLC, we have provided experienced legal representation for families, parents, and children throughout many different family law proceedings. Contact our office today at (973) 868-0958 or e-mail us at info@argentinolaw.com and schedule an appointment to talk with us about your case.

Can My Child’s Other Parent and I Agree to Waive Child Support?

Parents may wish to waive or terminate child support for a variety of reasons. Some parents may have come up with an alternate arrangement for supporting their child, some may simply wish to avoid all contact with their ex-significant others, and some believe that the other parent won’t pay his or her support obligation anyway. Whatever a parent’s reason may be for waiving or terminating the support, a New Jersey appeals court has ruled that divorcing parents cannot sign a property settlement agreement that waives or terminates a parent’s child support obligation.

In Patetta v. Patetta, 358 N.J. Super. 90 (App. Div. 2003), divorcing parents who shared three children signed a property settlement agreement that was incorporated into their final judgment of divorce. The agreement provided that Father was to pay $50 per week in child support for each child. When one child emancipated, which they defined as turning 18, getting married, passing away, or starting a full-time job, Father’s support obligation would be reduced by $50 per week. When their oldest child turned 18, Father sought to emancipate him and reduce his child support obligation, as per the terms of the property settlement agreement. Mother protested, arguing that the child was still living at home and attending community college. The trial court agreed with Mother, and refused to emancipate the child or reduce Father’s child support obligation. Father then appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court found that the question of whether a child is emancipated depends on certain facts, and that college attendance was a basis for continuing a parent’s child support obligation beyond the age of majority. The court also ruled that the right to support belongs to the child, not the parent, so that the parent cannot waive or terminate the child’s right to support in a divorce property settlement agreement.

Furthermore, in the 2017 decision of Conte v. Ainsworth, N.J. Super. App. Div., Docket No. A-3337-15T1, August 31, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division reconfirmed the ruling in Patetta. In Conte, Father and Mother signed a property settlement agreement as part of their divorce. This agreement provided that Father would pay weekly child support for their daughter until she was emancipated, which they defined as the daughter completing her college education. After the child graduated from college and entered a master’s program, Father reduced his child support payments and then sought to emancipate the child in court. In response, Mother asked for continued child support payments and for Father to contribute to college expenses. The trial court emancipated the child according to the terms of the property settlement agreement, and Mother appealed. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s finding of emancipation and ruled that the parties’ property settlement agreement could not waive the child’s right to support, and that the trial judge must consider facts outside the agreement in order to determine if the child was emancipated.

Child support cases are often complicated and stressful, whether you are establishing, modifying, or enforcing your child support obligation. No matter how complex the issues in your case may be, we are here to help. The attorneys of Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, have handled cases involving all aspects of divorce, child custody, and family law, as well as cases involving 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.