Do you want your kids or don’t you? Speak up early and file your proposal promptly with the court.
Many states have a procedure and a deadline for stating your position with respect to custody and visitation rights. For example, under New Jersey law, a parent who wants custody or other rights to the children must file a written “Custody and Visitation Plan” within 75 days after the last pleading is filed with the court. Such a plan could state that you’re asking for full custody, joint custody, legal custody, split custody, or any other kind of arrangement recognized by your state.
Unfortunately, many parents skip this step, or they think about it at the last minute, weeks or days before a trial is scheduled to begin. Many judges do not enforce this requirement. All of this is bad planning.
The better approach is to determine early in your case what kind of custody or parenting time and visitation rights you’re seeking. Understand your options; consult with competent counsel. If, for example, you want joint legal custody and joint physical custody of the children, then declare this position in your complaint, petition, motion papers and/or custody and visitation plan. Make this declaration early in the case, and stand by it as the case proceeds.
A party who fails to declare his/her intentions, who remains unclear, or who vacillates in reaction to child support orders or other pre-trial rulings is likely to be considered disingenuous and perhaps ill-suited for custodial rights.