Splitting Up Siblings in Custody Orders

Very few relationships in our lives have such power and influence over us than our family relationships.  Psychological studies have demonstrated that out of those relationships, the relationship between siblings has enormous influence, and possibly even more than that of the parent-child relationship.  When a divorce or separation is imminent, the parents will have to deal with the custody and visitation schedules for their children.  Some parents may come up with the idea to separate the siblings with a split custody arrangement.  Parents with such an idea should be cautious.

Divorce or separation is a time of instability.  It is widely known and accepted that children do best and thrive with a stable environment.  In fact, this axiom is recognized in the New Jersey best interest factors, which articulate stability of the homes as a specific factor to be considered by New Jersey judges when making custody decisions.  Leaving the siblings together gives the children another person to lean on.  Chances are the siblings have been a constant presence in each other’s lives, and have learned and played together for as long as they can remember.  Letting the children stay together allows them to maintain that relationship as stable and constant.  When the relationships between the parents and sometimes between the parents and children are changing, the siblings will have each other as a constant presence and relationship.

This is not to say that splitting children up is never appropriate.  This must be examined on a case by case basis.  Some siblings may get along well and provide each other with a sense of constancy, but this may be true for each sibling set.  If, for example, one sibling has assaulted the other or the siblings have an especially aggravated relationship, it may be best to divide the siblings.  These situations would be the type that go well above and beyond the typical disagreements and squabbling between siblings and reach into those cases where siblings are actually harming each other in a real way.  Similarly, if one child has an abusive or aggravated relationship with one parent, it clearly would not be beneficial to that child to remain with that parent.  However, if the sibling has an extremely close relationship to that same parent, it may be the best option to divide the siblings between households.

Every child custody and visitation decision is highly specific to each family and each child.  We can help you review your case and discuss your options for your child.  Call us today at (732) 529-6937 for an appointment.
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