Parental Actions in New Jersey

What parents do and do not do before and during a divorce can affect child custody. While courts generally encourage children to maintain a relationship with both parents, some parental actions may result in courts limiting a parent's custody or visitation. This is especially true when a parent seeks to damage the other parent's relationship with the child.

No matter how angry, parents should focus on a child's best interests throughout the divorce and act in a way that minimizes the stress a child experiences during the divorce. When parents seek to limit a child's relationship with the other parent or prevent a child from seeing the other parent, courts may restrict custody or visitation.

In contentious divorces, it's not uncommon for parents to be angry or wish to "win" the divorce. The problem is when they deliberately attempt to underline a parent-child relationship.

Four examples of parental actions that may hurt a parent's request for custody.

  • Alienation
  • Kidnapping
  • Relocation
  • International Parental Kidnapping

In New Jersey, some of these actions may rise to the level of a crime. This includes lying or falsifying a statement or evidence to accuse the other parent of these actions.

The Lento Family Law Team helps parents manage divorce and custody in ways that minimize the negative impact on children. If you're facing parental actions that are attempting to minimize your relationship with your child, or if you're being accused of such actions, we can help. You can call us or fill out our online form.


Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to undermine and destroy a child's relationship with the other parent. Child psychologist Robert Gardner referred to parental alienation as a "campaign of denigration."

A parent may belittle the other parent, mock them, exaggerate their faults, and even reward a child for becoming a participant in this conduct. The goal is to make the child not want to spend time with the other parent or even hate them and cut all ties.


Often referred to as parental abduction, kidnapping occurs when one parent detains, hides, or takes a child without the other parent's permission or in an attempt to deprive the other parent of access to the child.

Kidnapping can include taking a child out of state without the other parent's consent. Even if a parent has primary physical custody of a child, they may still require permission to travel with their child or cross state lines.

If a parent disagrees with a custody decision, they should work with their lawyer and within the law to find a resolution. This is the case even when a parent's motives are good, such as removing a child from a potentially abusive situation. While these intentions are noble, they run the risk of a parent losing custody or even facing criminal charges.


We live in an increasingly transient world, and people are more likely to move for careers or other reasons. For parents who do not live together and share custody, relocation is complicated.

Even if a parent has primary custody, most custody agreements require that parents agree to where a child lives and attends school. Parents may need the consent of the other parent to move. They cannot simply move the child. Moving without the other parent's permission may even be considered kidnapping.

If parents disagree about where a child should live – such as whether they should remain at their current school or move with one parent – courts will often consider what's in the child's best interests. Both parents will need to show how their preference will result in a child having a healthy relationship with both parents.

Courts may also consider a variety of factors. These include the child's preference, the child's current community and support system (such as whether they have extended family in the area), and how a new location will meet the child's needs compared to their current home.

International Parental Kidnapping

When one parent takes a child out of the country without the other parent's permission, the first parent is committing a federal crime. International parental kidnapping is not just a family law or custody matter. It's a crime.

Even attempting to take a child out of the country without permission may result in charges. Kidnapping can include situations when the other parent agrees to a trip abroad, but the first parent decides to stay beyond the agreed-upon time.

Federal law does allow for some narrow exceptions, such as escaping an abusive situation or when the parent and child remain out of the country due to forces beyond their control, such as a natural disaster. When taking their child out of the country, parents should consult a lawyer to determine how to proceed in a way that will not violate a custody agreement or the law.

False Accusations

In a well-known Hollywood divorce, the actress Kelly Rutherford made false accusations against her estranged husband in an attempt to gain full custody. The outcome of the six-year custody battle did not go according to Rutherford's plans.

Courts found her accusations to be false and that living with their father was in the children's best interests. As her accusations resulted in the children's father having his U.S. visa revoked, he gained full custody of the children, who now live with him in Europe.

Rutherford's case is a warning to other parents of the dangers and pitfalls of false accusations in custody disputes. Both parents were hurt by these fabrications: One parent lost his job and had to move out of the United States, while the other lost custody of her children and filed for bankruptcy.

Much as parents may want full custody, they should not embellish the record in an attempt to gain custody. False accusations hurt everyone involved, especially children. Parents should stick to provable facts during custody disputes.

For those who face false accusations, they should not react with their own unfounded arguments. They should work with their attorney to mount a defense that disproves the claims.

Protect Your Parent-Child Relationship

Divorce is stressful for everyone involved. It can be doubly so when one parent seeks to damage or limit a child's relationship with the other parent or when one parent falsely accuses the other of such actions as a way to gain custody.

The Lento Law Firm assists parents in protecting their relationship with their children. We focus on results that are in a child's best interest. For assistance in your custody dispute, call us or contact us online.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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