In almost every divorce involving children, parents will need to address the issue of parenting time. Typically, one parent will be the “Parent of Primary Residence” and the other parent will be the “Parent of Alternate Residence.” Parents must establish a “parenting time schedule” covering when the Parent of Alternate Residence will be with the children. This agreement is enforceable in court. The schedule generally takes into account the children’s activities and to some extent their wishes. A common question raised by divorced parents is whether at some point, the parenting time order ends because children are old enough to decide what time they will spend with each parent.
When children are younger and less involved with school friends and after school activities, obtaining the child’s cooperation with the parenting time schedule may not be problematic. But what happens when children get older? Certainly, parents of teenagers may appreciate the practical challenges of sticking to a parenting time schedule, given the complexities of children’s schedules as they get older. In addition, older children may have their own preferences regarding parenting time. So, legally speaking, is there an age when parenting time plans simply do not apply?
In the recent case of K.S. v. J.S., the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division reiterated that when a child turns 18 years of age (apparently regardless of whether they are legally emancipated for support purposes), custodial agreements no longer apply. As Appellate Judges Reisner and Mawla wrote:
Furthermore, “the age-of-majority statute provides that . . . ‘every person [eighteen] or more years of age shall . . . be deemed to be an adult,’ N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3, in order to exercise ‘the basic civil . . . rights’ of adults, N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1(a).” “Adults normally are not under the custody of another. Therefore, the issue of custody of . . . children become[s] moot when they turn [eighteen-years-old].”
So, under K.S. v. J.S., once children reach the age of 18, a custodial and parenting time agreement becomes moot and children have the right to establish their own parenting time schedule.
If you have concerns about your parenting time order, contact us for a consultation.