When spouses and non-married couples with minor children decide to go their separate ways, New Jersey courts encourage them to formalize their parental rights and responsibilities via a child custody order. This formalization process allows everyone involved to benefit from legally-enforceable expectations.
Once a child custody order—with or without a parenting-time plan attached—is approved by the court, the parties involved are bound to honor its terms. The order will remain in effect as ordered until:
- It is modified with the mutual consent of both parents and formalized by the court, or
- It is modified via court order (in the event of a litigated modification request), or
- The child named in the order reaches the age of majority.
Drafting a child custody order and parenting-time plan is rarely a straightforward undertaking. Each parent invested in this process is likely to have strong feelings about their rights, the nuances of a parenting-time schedule, and other matters that are frequently addressed by such orders. A divorce is usually an emotionally-charged situation and while some ex-couples can coparent harmoniously after the fact, most will involve the Family Court system to resolve their differences.
Negotiating a Child Custody Order Outside of Court
Because New Jersey does not require child custody orders—it only strongly encourages them—parents can certainly negotiate arrangements privately. If no formal court order is entered, the law defaults to shared legal and residential custody.
With that said, it is almost always preferable to formalize a child custody order with the court, as parents cannot enforce any expectations—other than a broad right to shared custody—without a court-approved custody order.
Parents can negotiate a child custody order and parenting-time schedule outside of court with or without the assistance of an attorney. Once mutually-agreeable terms have been drafted, they can work with an attorney to properly submit their arrangement to the court for approval. New Jersey law insists that a privately-negotiated child custody arrangement must be approved unless it has been drafted in ways that do not meet the best interests of the child or children.
Personalized Assistance with Custody Order Drafting Is Available
If you and your child's other parent want to formalize your custody agreement, you should not navigate this process alone. You can work with the experienced Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm to draft a legally-enforceable child custody arrangement that reflects your child's best interests.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Family Law Team can assist you with your legal needs as you navigate this significant transition into co-parenting. To learn more about how we can help, schedule a confidential consultation today by calling 888-535-3686 or by contacting us online. We look forward to hearing from you.