When spouses get divorced, they often wonder about their parental rights. It is easy to get confused between custody, timesharing, visitation, and parental rights, but they are really different terms, with different meanings.

You Keep Your Parental Rights

Unless you have done something truly illegal, or horribly detrimental to the children, you will not lose your parental rights in your divorce.

Regardless of where the children physically live, the amount of time that they spend with each parent, or how much visitation you do or do not have, the family court cannot terminate your rights as a parent, including the right to make decisions for your child and to raise your child in the way that you see fit.

Even if you did something or had something really detrimental to the child, the family court will use other alternatives, such as supervised visitation, but the court will not simply terminate your parental rights (there are courts that can do that, but they are usually dependency courts, not family law courts).

Making Decisions and Your Parental Rights

That means that you maintain the right to make decisions about your child’s upbringing, together with your ex-spouse or the child’s other parent.

Of course, you are getting divorced, and there are two parents, so certainly, you will not have the same freedom to make every decision, as you would have if you were married.

For example, you may normally, as a parent, have the right to say what extracurricular activities your child engages in, what kind of diet your child has, when your child should start dating, or whether they can get their ears pierced.

But when you are divorced, some of these decisions may be made by the other parent, based on what is agreed upon in the divorce, or these types of things may have to be agreed upon by both of you.

Some decisions are made simply on convenience–the parent with whom the child resides physically at any given time will have reasonable leeway to make day-to-day decisions about the child’s life. If the child is with mom on Thursdays, and mom wants the child to do homework instead of going to a party, and dad disagrees, dad will be limited in his ability to do anything about it.

Flexibility to a Point

This is why important decisions about the child’s life should be decided on during the divorce. Mom and dad can raise the child differently and make their own decisions when the child is with either one, but there are some things that cannot go “back and forth” depending on which parent the child happens to be with.

For example, things like religion, dietary restrictions, or summer camp attendance, are things that will have to be decided on in the divorce.  These types of major decisions are subject of what is called “legal custody.”  Most parents share joint legal custody, but in some cases one parent gets sole legal custody.

Contact our New Jersey family law and divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC today to understand how your divorce may affect your parental rights.





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