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A reality of custody litigation: parental decisions under a microscope.

During custody litigation, parental decisions are often under a microscope. The smallest and most innocent parental decisions can be fuel in arguing primary parent status. Primary parent status not only allows the primary parent majority of overnight parenting time with the child, it can also allow that parent to claim the child as a dependent for tax return purposes, and to possibly avoid paying child support. Thus, primary parent status can be very valuable. Parties must be careful and cognizant of the effect their parental decisions may have on the litigation because parties will go to aggressive lengths to obtain that title.

For example, in one New Jersey case, the parties litigated over whether it was “an abuse of parental discretion” for the mother to bring their 11 year old daughter to a Pink concert. Ultimately, the court found that the concert was not harmful to the child, but there is no doubt that this dispute over one night at a rock concert cost the parties unnecessary attorney fees and stress. Judge Lawrence Jones, who presided over the case, got it right when he stated, “When all the smoke from the custody litigation clears, it will be self-evident that all which happened here is that a young girl went to her first rock concert with her mother and had a really great time.”