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What's a parenting plan, and what if a parent violates it?

Parents in New Jersey may benefit from learning more about parenting plans and the legal consequences for violating these agreements. The parenting plan is designed to establish parameters for parenting time and may address other issues or disputes parents could be dealing with. When it's in the best interest for the child, most parenting plans are designed to provide regular contact with both parents. Terms of the parenting plan may govern parents' rights concerning health care, education, religion, financial support and decision-making.

If both parties are unable to agree mutually on the terms of a parenting plan, a family judge may assume authority in making the final decisions. Disputing parents may file a motion to meet with a mediator as well. A parenting plan can be developed in mediation and then filed as a court order once a family judge approves it. When negotiating a visitation schedule and custody rights, parents are advised to take summer break, school activities, family obligations and holidays into consideration.

If a parent interferes with custody or parenting time, they may be committing a crime. Someone commits a crime if he or she violates any court order that entitles someone to parenting time. If the child is taken for more than 24 hours or outside the jurisdiction of the United States, interfering with custody is considered a second-degree crime. Otherwise, it is considered a third-degree crime to interfere with custody. The penalties include a maximum fine of $15,000 or three to five years behind bars.

People who are struggling with negotiating terms of their parenting plan may benefit from consulting a family lawyer. Legal counsel may be effective in acting as an intermediary who can negotiate amicable terms for important issues such as child custody rights, a visitation schedule and child support.

Source: New Jersey Judiciary, "Parenting Time: A Child's Right", November 14, 2014

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