Bari Zell-Weinberger, a family lawyer in Parsippany, answers:
In New Jersey, it is considered in a child’s best interest to spend time and have contact with both parents whenever possible and appropriate. A temporary custody plan can be put in place as soon as a couple decides to separate and it can remain in place until the couple’s divorce is finalized, at which time the custody plan contained in the settlement is enforced. There are two basic ways separated parents can outline a temporary plan for child custody and parenting time:
- Formulating a Mutually Agreed upon Plan: In some situations, parents are able to come up with their own plan to share custody of their children during their separation. If the parents are on good enough terms to engage in this kind of negotiation, they can simply sit down together and amicably develop a temporary agreement outlining how child custody can be fairly handled until they decide to reconcile or divorce. The temporary plan should be put in writing and ideally reviewed by an attorney.
- Going to Court for a Temporary Child Custody Order: In the event that separated parents are unable to reach an amicable agreement or one parent is uncooperative, either party can go to court to file for a temporary child custody order (called a “pendente lite” order) to cover the period of separation. Until a final judgment is made, the court will determine temporary custody based on the best interests of the child with due regard to the caretaking arrangement that previously existed.
Whichever route is used to develop a temporary parenting plan to cover the separation period, a permanent order can be put in place when the divorce is finalized. If you have questions about child custody during separation, a family law attorney can explain legal options that best meet your family’s needs.
Bari Zell-Weinberger is a Certified New Jersey divorce lawyer and partner with the firm of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, LLC. in Parsippany, New Jersey, where she exclusively practices family and matrimonial law.