Spousal interactions during a separation or divorce can be tense. It can take weeks or months for some spouses to process hurt feelings and prepare to deal with legal matters like child custody arrangements. Some New Jersey spouses never reach a point where they can agree on custody matters and turn to a family law court for help.
Custody problems can occur when an agreement is being negotiated or when arrangements are already made. Serious legal problems can occur when one parent attempts to block or bars the other parent from being with a minor child. Contempt of court – violating the terms of a court order — and interference with child custody are crimes.
Custody interference occurs when a custodial or non-custodial parent purposely conceals a child from the other parent. In New Jersey, this is a third-degree offense but can become a more serious second-degree crime when the concealment period lasts longer than 24 hours or the child is removed from the country. A parent can be charged for committing the offense while a custody action is underway, not just after a ruling has been made.
Penalties for third-degree interference with custody can include a maximum fine of $15,000 or a prison term of up to five years. In addition, a judge also may order counseling, economic reparations, modifications to an existing custody agreement or other sanctions.
It’s often not easy for couples going through a separation or divorce to agree on child custody arrangements and a parenting plan. However, working out the problem is usually preferable to having a judge decide how parents should behave. Custody decisions made by a court focus on a child’s well-being – parents designing their own arrangements are advised to do the same.
Spouses with unsolvable conflicts about child custody arrangements can seek the guidance of third party like a family law attorney or a mediator.
Source: The New Jersey Judiciary, “Parenting Time: A Child’s Rights,” accessed May. 07, 2015