Parents who are either divorcing or separating for the first time often come to court (or their attorneys’ offices) with more questions than answers and more misconceptions than accurate understandings. In fact, part of a New Jersey family law attorney’s job with new clients is to educate them about the custody and parenting time process, what they can realistically expect to happen, and what misconceptions they ought to abandon. Here are some of the more “popular” misconceptions regarding custody and parenting time:
1. My child can decide where he or she wants to live. The truth is that a child’s wishes are one of many factors that a court may consider in making determinations as to where your child will live. The older and more mature your child is, however, the greater weight a court is likely to give to your child’s wishes.
2. If I have been awarded sole custody, I can keep the other parent from seeing the child. Be careful to distinguish between sole legal custody (which allows you to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare without consent from the other parent) and sole physical custody (which means the other parent is not permitted to have visitation with the child or keep the child unless the court enters specific orders to the contrary). Sole physical custody is difficult to obtain absent some evidence that the other parent is abusing or mistreating the child.
3. I can deny visitation to the other parent if he/she is not paying child support (or I can stop paying child support if I am denied visitation). The right to visit your child and the obligation to pay child support are separate and independent from one another. You cannot legally deny visitation to the other parent simply because he or she is not paying child support; likewise, you cannot stop paying child support because you have been denied visitation.
When it comes to following the court’s visitation and custody orders, the best course of action is to speak with an experienced New Jersey family law attorney if you have questions or concerns. Giro Attorneys at Law, LLC is here to assist you in understanding your rights and obligations in a custody or paternity action. Contact us at (201) 690-1642 and discuss your case with us today.