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Every custody and parenting time (visitation) agreement should address the issue of pick up and drop off of the children. In the low or no-conflict situation the parties can agree to pick up and drop off at the other person’s residence or any mutually convenient location. However, in a higher conflict situation child pick up and drop off has to be structured to deal with the possibility of a negative parental interaction.

In a higher conflict parental situation the custody exchange can be “curbside”, at a third-party’s residence, at the child’s school, or in a worst case scenario, at the police station. In all of these situations the idea is to reduce or remove the ability for the parties to interact face-to-face.

Curbside pick up and drop off is the term used for an exchange in which one parent arrives at the other parent’s residence, either by car or on foot, and they do not go up to the other parent’s door. They wait at the curb. They do not enter onto the other parent’s property. The child comes out of the residence and walks to meet the parent doing the pick up at the curb. In this situation there is no parental interaction. (Of course, with an infant who has not begun walking there will have to be more parental interaction).

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In New Jersey the word “custody” has two meanings: The first meaning has to do with “legal custody”, the second meaning has to do with “residential custody”. Legal custody can be either “sole legal custody” or “joint legal custody”.

Sole Legal Custody vs.  Joint Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to who will make the major decisions about the child’s health, welfare (including their religious upbringing), and education. Will the child’s mother and father both have equal rights and input into these important decisions? Or will only one parent be able to make these decisions without having to seek the other parent’s input and approval.

If both parents will have the right to have input on the major decisions affecting the child’s life then the parents are deemed to have “joint legal custody”. If only one parent will make the major decisions regarding the child’s life without having to seek input and approval from the other parent then that parent has “sole legal custody”.

In New Jersey most parents exercise “joint legal custody”, either because they agree to it, or because a judge orders this type of custody arrangement. In order for one parent to get sole legal custody of the child either the parents have to come to an agreement that only one parent will have sole legal custody (a written agreement is the only agreement that will be enforceable in court on this issue), or a court will have to order sole legal custody after a hearing. Continue reading →