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Divorce Resources - Maleski Eisenhut & Zielinski, LLC, Flemington NJ

Family Assets - Courts view a stay-at-home spouse as contributing to the family's assets. As such, if your spouse's assets or business has increased in value during the marriage, you may be entitled to a percentage of that growth upon divorce.

Child Custody

Custody in New Jersey has two aspects: "legal custody" and "residential custody." Legal Custody is the responsibility for major decisions in the child's life, such as health, education and general welfare of the child. Most often courts designate, or both parties will agree that, the parents are "joint legal custodians" and the parents will be vested with "joint legal custody." This means that both parents have equal and joint rights to the major decisions relating to the child and the parents must decide on these major issues jointly. The alternative is sole legal custody to one parent or party, which is appropriate in some cases.

Residential (Physical) Custody pertains to the actual physical custody of and parenting time with, the child. Residential custody vests in the parent then having physical custody of the child the responsibility for the day-to-day decisions. This includes decisions such as preparation of food and clothing, transportation to school and events, meal time bed time, and other daily decisions as they arise during parenting time.

Some parental situations call for "joint residential or physical custody."  This means that the child spends approximately equal time each year with both parents. Examples of parenting time under this schedule may include: every other week with each parent; Monday and Tuesday each week with one parent, Wednesday and Thursday each week with the other parent, and alternating Friday through Sunday. These are just examples. The actual schedules vary from family to family depending on their circumstances.

Often, one parent will have more parenting time with the child than the other parent in any given year. This parent is considered the "primary caretaker" and the other parent is considered the "secondary caretaker." The primary caretaker is the parent who is most often and most frequently responsible for: preparing and planning of meals; bathing, grooming, and dressing; purchasing, cleaning, and caring for clothes; medical care, including nursing and trips to physicians; arranging for social interaction among peers; arranging alternative care, i.e., babysitting or daycare; putting a child to bed at night, attending to a child in the middle of the night, and waking a child in the morning; disciplining; and educating the child in a religious or cultural manner. Examples of parenting time to the secondary caretaker may include: Every other weekend Friday through Monday morning, and an additional overnight during the week. There is no "set" parenting time schedule; schedules vary from one family to another and depend on that family's responsibilities and needs.

When parents are unable to agree on the terms of a custody arrangement, they may retain a joint or individual custody expert, who may be a psychologist, versed in child custody issues. The expert undertakes a custody evaluation and issues a report with recommendations on legal and physical custody.  If the parties are unable to resolve the issues after a report or reports, the matter will proceed to a custody trial before a judge.   Alternatively, parties can agree to submit the issue of custody to be decided by an arbitrator.

Click here for an article on Child Custody prepared by Maleski Eisenhut & Zielinski, LLC which appeared in the April/May 2010 edition of Hunterdon County Woman Magazine.