Articles Posted in Children

custodyOne of the most difficult and emotionally charged decisions facing couples contemplating divorce involves the custody of the children. Most agree that, whenever possible, equal involvement in the child’s life on the part of both parents is the best solution. New Jersey family courts share this opinion but will put the best interest of the child first when deciding custody issues.(1)

There are two separate forms of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody determines who has the responsibility for making important decisions for the child, particularly concerning medical and educational needs, while physical custody relates to the parent with whom the child lives.(2)

Couples who are able to maintain open communication and work together cooperatively on matters concerning their children can craft a child custody plan either on their own or through mediation based on what works best for parents and children alike. That plan can then be submitted to the court to be filed as a custody order.

Parents can share both legal and physical custody of their children. Sharing legal custody means both parents work together in making major decisions for their children usually on matters relating to finances, medical treatment, school, religious upbringing and where the children live. It helps when parents share similar opinions and values regarding these issues. If there are strong differences of opinion, the court may decide that it would be in the best interest of the child if legal custody was granted to only one parent.

Sharing physical custody means that the child spends equal time living with each parent, whether that time is divided by months or days of the week. This arrangement requires that the parents live in close proximity so as not to cause too much disruption in the child’s school and social life. The goal is to find the arrangement that works best for everyone involved.(3) Continue reading

tuition-lawsuitNew Jersey once again is grappling with the issue of how far parents’ financial obligations toward their children should go, particularly in relation to paying for their higher education. At least one State lawmaker is looking at ways to keep such decisions within the family and out of the courtroom.

In a legal battle that began last year, Caitlyn Ricci, a 21-year-old New Jersey resident, filed a lawsuit against Maura McGarvey and Michael Ricci, her divorced parents, seeking to force them to pay for her college tuition. Last month, a judge ruled in her favor citing a 1982 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that made divorced parents financially responsible for the college education of their children.(1)

Ms. Ricci’s case was originally filed in 2013 soon after she left her mother’s home and moved in with her paternal grandparents. At that time, Ms. Ricci’s parents were ordered to pay their daughter’s tuition at Gloucester County College, a public State school, provided Ms. Ricci applied for available scholarships and loans to help defray the costs. According to reports, the parents did not pay the tuition because their daughter did not meet her court-ordered obligations. This past summer, Ms. Ricci transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, and returned to court asking that her parents be forced to pay her tuition, which now amounts to $26,000 a year.(1)

In hearing the case, the judge referred to Newburgh v Arrigo, the 1982 State Supreme Court case that decided divorced parents are responsible for providing college educations for their children, and ordered Ms. Ricci’s parents to pay $16,000 of her Temple University tuition bill.(1)

This case is reminiscent of another case that made headlines earlier this year involving a then high school student, Rachel Canning, who went to court seeking emancipation and support from her estranged parents. That support was to include the continued payment of her private high school tuition costs, as well as payment of her future college tuition. That case eventually was dropped and Ms. Canning returned home to her parents’ house before moving to college this past fall.(2) Continue reading

400-07265449Although New Jersey ranks among the three states to claim the lowest suicide rate, suicide does remain a serious issue that has been attracting a lot of attention lately. Among the groups working to increase awareness of this growing problem is the group most affected by it – teens and young adults.(1)

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), statistics compiled in 2010 showed that suicide ranks second as the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24. A Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 2011 disclosed that one out of every seven high school-age students in the U.S. has either attempted or considered suicide.(1)

These sobering statistics have led other young adults in New Jersey to take action to raise suicide awareness. Keystone Club members from the Boys and Girls Club of Jersey City were instrumental in preparing a bill currently being considered by the State legislature.(2)

The “Boys and Girls Club’s Keystone Law” would allow minors to get help from therapists and social workers without prior consent of an adult, much like existing bills which allow teens and young adults to receive treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, sexual assault, certain sexually-transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS without adult consent. The bill, if passed, would add New Jersey to the list of 16 other states with similar laws on their books.(2)

The CDC stated that one out of every three deaths in the 10 to 24 age group is due to suicide. Based on these numbers, it estimates there will be about 2,000 suicides and 5,000 attempted suicides each year by this age group. The Keystone group believes that giving minors direct access to treatment will help them overcome the stigma that too often keeps them from seeking the help they need.(2)

Continue reading

400-07275223A recent Woman’s Day magazine article discussed “grandfamilies” or households in which grandparents fill the role of parent for their grandchildren and how these situations are becoming more common. The article cited a number of factors contributing to the need for this arrangement, including a rise in drug use between 2002 and 2012; a 25% jump in the number of young parents imprisoned between the years 1997 and 2007, and a recent recession which left many people without work. Whatever the reason, there are more grandparents parenting their grandchildren than one may think.(1)

The 2010 Census showed that one out of every ten children in this country lives with a grandparent. That Census also disclosed that in the U.S.

  • 7 million grandparents have at least one grandchild under the age of 18 living with them;
  • Of those grandparents, 2.7 million were caregivers, meaning they were in charge of providing the basic needs for their grandchildren;
  • A little more than half of the caregiving grandparents – 1.7 million – were still actively employed;
  • About 670,000 of those caregiving grandparents had a disability.(2)

Custodial grandparents come from all walks of life representing all socio-economic strata and ethnicities. And, while stepping up to fulfill a need in a child’s life may be admirable, it does not come without risks.

Oftentimes these arrangements occur when parents face some type of tragedy – loss of job, imprisonment, addiction – and, when these troubles are resolved, they look to regain custody of their children, sometimes leading to contentious or strained relationships between parent, child and grandparent. In order to preserve their relationships with their grandchildren, custodial grandparents are often urged to legalize these relationships.(3) Continue reading

international%20child%20abduction.jpgPresident Barack Obama last week signed into law the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act providing more governmental support to American parents who are embroiled in international legal battles to regain custody of children who had been abducted by their ex-spouses and taken to a foreign land. The bill was inspired by the highly-publicized, five-and-a-half year fight by New Jersey resident David Goldman to regain custody of his son Sean.(1)

Mr. Goldman’s battle began in 2004 when his then-wife took the couple’s son to visit family in her native country of Brazil. While there, the former Mrs. Goldman filed for divorce from her husband, sparking the beginning of the couple’s international custody battle. Eventually, the former Mrs. Goldman remarried but died shortly thereafter from complications suffered during childbirth. Rather than resolve the custody issue, her death complicated matters as her parents and then-husband continued her fight to retain custody of the Goldman’s son. Mr. Goldman continued his fight for custody, going so far as to enlist help from the U.S. State Department, before a Brazilian court eventually ordered the child returned to his father’s home in the States.(2)

Continue reading


A Hunterdon County woman lost her appeal of a New Jersey judge’s ruling preventing her from mentioning her ex-husband or children in any of her online posts. That ban was imposed as part of the woman’s probation for a custody agreement violation. (1)

This case highlights the seriousness with which New Jersey courts view infringement of child custody arrangements. According to reports, the woman was charged with violating the custody agreement between her and her ex-husband and with attempted kidnapping of her children after taking them from New Jersey to New York, with the intention of eventually taking them across the border into Canada. She pleaded guilty to the custody agreement violation and, in return, the kidnapping charges were dropped. In response to the woman’s guilty plea, she received five years’ probation, the terms of which included a prohibition against writing anything online about her family. She was also prohibited from having contact with her children and her ex’s family. (1)

Continue reading

birth%20records.jpgIt took more than 30 years, but New Jersey lawmakers may have finally reached a compromise that satisfies both adoptees’ right to know and their birth parents’ right to privacy. That compromise is the basis for a bill which, last week, won conditional approval from Gov. Chris Christie, and now awaits final approval by both the State Senate and Assembly next week. (1)

Gov. Christie announced he would sign the bill provided it allowed a “suitable” period of transition for parents of birth children adopted before August 1, 2015 to decide if and how they would like to be contacted. He recommended that the law not take effect until after December 31, 2016 in order to accommodate this. Usually laws take effect six months after being signed. (1)

Continue reading

bullying.jpgIn 2011 New Jersey adopted its Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in response to the Federal Government’s efforts to protect people, especially children, from this growing problem. Since then, schools have been responsible for addressing claims of bullying and harassment against their students to the point of monitoring even those activities that occur off campus but have the potential of affecting children when in school. Now, two Hunterdon County school districts are asking that the families of alleged bullies, as well as the bullies themselves, share in that accountability. (1)

A New Jersey Superior Court Judge recently refused to deny a motion filed by the Hunterdon Central High School and the Flemington-Raritan school districts requesting that if the districts are found liable for the harassment of one of their students, the bullies and their parents share the liability. Both districts are the subject of a lawsuit originally filed in February 2013 claiming they failed to take sufficient action to stop harassment toward one of their students. According to the lawsuit, the bullying began while the student was in fourth grade and continued through high school and involved both verbal and physical harassment. The lawsuit further claims that the harassment led to the victim developing health issues that required hospitalization for three months. (1)

Continue reading

medical%20records.jpgEfforts to provide New Jersey adoptees with access to their medical and genealogical histories while protecting biological parents’ rights to privacy are under way once again. (1) This time, however, lawmakers hope they have found a workable compromise.

The latest revisions to a bill first introduced in 1980 are expected to be voted on by both the State Senate and the Assembly this week. (2) The revision would grant adoptees access to their birth certificates, including the identities of their biological parents, so that these adoptees would have open-ended access to family medical histories. As for the biological parents, the bill would allow them to stipulate whether or not they wish to be contacted. Those opting not to have any contact with the child they surrendered for adoption would be required to provide a detailed medical history and urged to update that history on an as-needed basis. (1)

Continue reading

baby%20in%20car.jpgAt what age is it okay to leave a child unattended? In New Jersey, the answer depends on a number of circumstances, including where the child is being left.

A New Jersey appeals court recently ruled that a parent or custodial guardian who leaves a young child unattended in a motor vehicle, even if only for a few minutes, can be charged with abuse or neglect. This decision was in response to a 2009 case in which a mother left her young child asleep in a car seat while she ran into a store to purchase party supplies. Although she was gone only for a few minutes, the police were present when she arrived back at her car and she was arrested. Originally charged with child endangerment, the woman requested a hearing with Child Protective Services. However, since she did not deny leaving her child alone, her request for a hearing was denied.(1)

Continue reading