Hackensack Child Custody Lawyers
Going through a divorce is stressful enough, but when issues of child custody are involved, the potential for problems increases substantially. Turn to our Hackensack child custody lawyer for help resolving contentious and sensitive child custody issues.
If parents can work out their differences and find a balance between independence from their former spouse and maintaining an active relationship with their children, they may be able to come to an agreement regarding custody, visitation, and child support on their own. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Conflicts over child custody can lead to a difficult court battle that is damaging to all parties.
Why It’s Important to Work with an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer
New Jersey child custody law is complicated. With the lives and well-being of your children at stake, you need skilled legal representation to protect your rights and interests, as well as those of your children. At MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our Bergen County divorce and family law attorneys will be there for you. We provide advice and resolutions, including innovative custody arrangement options that safeguard the best interests of your children. Our advice will consider all elements of your custody arrangements, including joint custody, parenting time, visitation rights and other child custody issues.
Don’t make mistakes with child custody. Call us today at 201-781-8632, so we can discuss your unique situation, answer your questions and concerns, and show you how we can help. Be assured that our Hackensack child custody lawyers will serve as fierce advocates for your cause. We will be there for you and your children throughout the entire process.
Skilled Negotiators Will Find a Winning Solution for Your Child
A joint custody arrangement may include:
Ideally, child custody agreement can be handled via negotiations, rather than a court battle. That said, it takes both parents to want to willingly engage in the negotiation process. Our Bergen County child custody lawyers help you negotiate a child custody agreement where your child is the ultimate “winner.”
When parents are involved in custody disputes, children may be subjected to extraordinary stress and that, in and of itself, may cause irreparable harm to the child. Custody battles destroy the parents’ relationship with each other and harm the chances that they will be able to cooperate and co-parent in a manner that is in their child’s best interests in the long term. In a custody dispute, children often feel caught in the middle. They may blame themselves and wonder what they did wrong. They may even have long-lasting damage to their own ability to develop meaningful relationships. At a minimum, a custody battle can forever change the relationship between parents and their children who carry deep resentment related to the dispute. Feeling that they have to choose between the parents they love may mean their children go in the opposite direction and don’t know how to form fully functional relationships with either parent!
The impact of a child custody dispute on the children can reach even deeper. Judges may have to step in and make decisions that neither parent (nor the child) wants. Rather than let a negative chain of events unfold, turn to us for legal guidance before they even start. Depend on our experience to explain these treacherous waters at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC.
Understanding Your Legal Options for Child Custody in New Jersey
Going through a divorce is an exceptionally challenging time in your life. You should also understand the legal issues custody involves so you can make the best, educated decisions you can. Our Hackensack child custody lawyer will be by your side, ready to explain the law and address any questions you have. We want you to be well-informed as you go through the child custody process. Learning about the ins and outs of this process is not a bad idea if you want to fully grasp what’s going on and lay the foundation for the next chapter in your life, and your child’s life.
Determining a child custody arrangement depends on a range of issues and factors. But there is a primary factor that dictates all decision-making of New Jersey courts: the child’s best interests. You (or the other parent) may fiercely want custody of your child, but if that is not in your child’s best interests, your feelings won’t carry the day in a court of law. Our Hackensack child custody lawyers can help with this, by not only helping you try to negotiate a child custody agreement that is mutually satisfactory, but also by helping you present the best case before the Court if need be.
New Jersey’s general custody policy is spelled out in state statute N.J.S.A. 9:2-4:
“…it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy. In any proceeding involving the custody of a minor child, the rights of both parents shall be equal….”
These aren’t empty words and it is still not that simple. Although both parents have the legal right to be involved in the children’s lives, the courts have not interpreted the Statute language to mean an automatic 50/50 or automatic joint custody arrangement. So, there is still work to be done and this is where an experienced attorney is extremely valuable. Also, if you’re seen by a judge as trying to damage your child’s relationship with the other parent or you’re seen as inflexible and demanding when it comes to time with your child, it can significantly decrease your chances of getting the type of custody or visitation you want. Our child custody lawyers know every detail in the New Jersey child custody laws. We will provide sound legal guidance to avoid any issues that could harm your ability to get the custody arrangement you want.
Child Custody Breaks Down into Broad Categories
- Legal custody allows you to make major important decisions about your child, like medical care and education. You do not need to live with your child to have shared legal custody of your child.
- Physical or residential custody is about which parent the child lives with more (duration wise) out of the week/month. The parent with primary physical or primary residential custody will live with the child more than the other parent. The other parent would be designated the parent of alternate residence.
- Custody (whether legal or residential) can be shared (or joint) or sole. Both parents, or one, can have these legal rights.
- A parent may not have any custody at all. This normally happens if a parent is unwilling or unable to properly care for the child or make appropriate decisions about his or her upbringing. If you claim the other parent should not have custody, or the visitation with them needs to be limited or even supervised, you need to show that that parent’s conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child. However, just because a parent may not have formal custody rights on paper, that is separate and apart from the fact that they are still entitled to visitation rights depending on the circumstances and will be able to spend time with the child. If there are concerns about the child’s safety, visits can be supervised by a third party and the location of these visits can be discussed to ensure the child’s safety.
Custody rights can come in different combinations. Whatever the arrangement is that a court orders must be in the best interests of the child, according to N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. For a list of what factors a New Jersey Court will consider in making a decision about a custody arrangement, please see this article.
- Joint legal custody and joint residential custody: Both parents have equal input and decision-making authority on major decisions affecting the children. A parenting time schedule will be established for both parents to see the children based upon the best interests of the children.
- Joint legal custody and one parent has primary physical or residential custody: This means joint major decision making, but the children spend more time out of the year with one parent than the other. This is the most common arrangement since, as a practical matter, it’s sometimes difficult to work out logistics to have children spend equal time with parents who live in different places unless, of course, the parents live relatively close together geographically.
Factors a Judge Considers in a Child Custody Decision
The statute also spells out factors a judge needs to consider when making a custody decision, though they can add others, depending on the situation. These factors include:
- The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate concerning the child
- The parents’ willingness to accept custody
- Any unwillingness to allow time with the other parent not based on substantiated claims of abuse
- The interaction and relationship of the child with parents and siblings
- A history of domestic violence, if any
- The safety of the child and of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- The preference of the child when he or she is old enough and has the ability to reason and form an intelligent decision
- The needs of the child
- The stability of the home environment
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education
- The fitness of the parents
- How close the parents’ homes are located to each other
- The extent and quality of the time spent with the child before or after the separation
- The parents’ employment responsibilities
- The age and number of the children.
Deciding Upon a Child Custody and Visitation Schedule
A parenting plan—otherwise known as a custody plan — can be jointly agreed to and submitted to the court for approval. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the Court will make one for you. Parents can come up with these plans in any way that works for them, as long as they serve the children’s best interests. Plans should provide a schedule that specifically states when the child is with each parent, for example:
- A regular schedule of how parents will split time with the child on typical weekdays and weekends
- A schedule of how parents will split time with the child during school breaks, holidays, special occasions, and vacations
- Planning which events take priority over others, such as if Father’s Day falls on the mother’s usual Sunday.
Grandparents and siblings may seek visitation rights under N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1, although it is rare that a Court will independently include this. When coming up with a parenting time plan, each parent should think about when the grandparent and siblings — and any other extended family — can see the children.
Talk to a Bergen County child custody lawyer at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC to discuss your visitation options. We can help you plan and propose a schedule that best meets the needs of you and your children. We will help negotiate a visitation schedule, but, when necessary, we are ready to fight for you and your children’s best interests in court.
Our Child Custody Lawyers in Hackensack Answer Custody Arrangement Questions
In our experience working with parents, our child custody lawyers hear common questions. We offer a few to help you understand more about the process and your child custody options:
Can Children Choose Where They Live?
Parents often wonder whether their child will have a voice in certain issues of their divorce case and, most notably, which parent they want to live with. The children’s wishes may be considered under very limited circumstances and upon a request by one party to the court. This option involves a lot of procedural requirements that must be met before a judge will speak with a child.
The bearing of a residential custody depends on several factors; one of them is the child’s viewpoint if they are “old enough” and “sufficiently mature.” Of course, to some extent, these are subjective metrics, which is why a lot of times there is a lot of discussion on whether a child should or should not voice their parental preference. Generally, if at all possible, Judges like to keep children away from the Courtroom for obvious reasons and the Court will try every other option before even considering this one. Even then, the judge may first ask a child psychologist hired by either parent or hired by the court about the situation. The judge will hear the opinion / recommendation offered by the psychologist, and it may or may not weigh heavily on the ultimate outcome of the Judge’s decision, although both parents will still have an opportunity to present other facts at a hearing that may influence the judge’s decision.
Who Has the Right to Child Custody in New Jersey?
Our law firm team of Hackensack child custody lawyers supports fathers’ rights. We are strong advocates for good and loving fathers who want to continue to be actively involved in their children’s lives. In being an advocate for fathers, it does not mean we are women-hating, either. We understand that this approach is very complicated, and our focus is to ensure the family, holistically, comes out of this with an arrangement that benefits all in one way or another.
Under New Jersey law, both parents have a right to custody unless the evidence shows that custody by one or both isn’t in the child’s best interests. To our point above, a parent’s sex is not supposed to be a factor in a custody decision, and the Court is not supposed to lean one way over the other. Instead, the Court, under the law, has to balance a number of factors; a custody decision is made in the child’s best interests. That said, we all know that sometimes perception does not equate to reality, and there can be one gender (usually the man) that gets the short end of the stick.
Our child custody lawyers not only work with parents who are divorcing, but also spend a lot of time representing non-married clients who have a child (or children) together and are in need of establishing, enforcing, or modifying child custody cases or parenting time/visitation arrangements.
Whatever your situation, our team of child custody attorneys will work with you to create solutions that meet the custody arrangement needs of all parties.
What Can Be Done if the Non-Custodial Parent is Always Late with Visitation?
In addition to the annoyance and inconvenience that having to wait for your ex creates for you, the children are the ones who suffer when a parent is late or misses scheduled visitation.
If the non-custodial parent is consistently late in picking up or dropping off the children, it’s important to discover the underlying reasons. If the current custodial arrangement doesn’t work for the family, it may need to be revised through negotiation or litigation, so the plan is workable for everyone involved.
Our child custody attorneys will help you deal with these issues and come up with the best [new] possible resolution.
What if the Child’s Safety Is at Stake?
In some unfortunate cases, it’s not in the child’s best interests to maintain relationships with both parents. Examples of such cases are those that involve domestic violence toward a child directly, drug or alcohol use that has caused negligence or inability to care for a child, or, in extreme cases, even sexual abuse by a parent toward a child.
To make your case that your child isn’t safe with the other parent, you would need credible evidence that they have a substantial adverse effect on the child (See N.J.S.A. 9:2-4). A judge would decide if it’s in the child’s best interests to limit or end contact with the other parent. This is not something a judge will take lightly, because they would need to balance the legal and constitutional rights of all the parties involved.
When your child is potentially in danger by being exposed to the other parent, our New Jersey child custody lawyers have the experience to demonstrate to the judge all of the circumstances in play and that it’s in the child’s best interest to provide you with sole legal and/or residential custody, even if on a temporary basis. Our Bergen County child custody attorneys will present a case that clearly documents your position, and we’ll fight aggressively for you and your child’s best interests and formulate some short-term and long-term options/suggestions to keep everyone safe and eventually back on the right path.
New Jersey’s Child Custody Process
Our child custody lawyers at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC know the law and will not only help you understand all the child custody options before you, but we’ll also help you and your children navigate the process toward reaching an agreement in the best way possible. Our goal is to develop a child custody arrangement that meets the needs of both parents and their children and that protects everyone involved from getting into unnecessary conflict. Relying on our skilled help may mean you can avoid a long-lasting negative impact on not just yourself, but also your children.
Filing a Formal Complaint in Court
Proceedings can start with filing a custody complaint in the Superior Court of the county where the child resides. In addition to providing information about the parents and the child or children, we also include the type of custody sought, a parenting plan, and discussions of genuine or substantial issues regarding custody or parenting time. Sometimes, filing a formal court action is not the way to start. There are times where we may want to try to talk to the other parent first to see if there is an opportunity to negotiate the issues and resolve the conflict without having to seek the court’s assistance. But rest assured, even if an agreement can be reached without the Judge’s help, we would always get the Judge to sign it so it becomes a formal Court Order that can be enforced later if someone doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain.
If the parents (preferably with the help of attorneys) still can’t negotiate an agreement between them, then the next option is to avail yourself of a mediation process with a neutral third party (experienced in family law). A mediator can work with the parties and attorneys to recommend some other options perhaps not already discussed. However, a mediator is not allowed to give anyone legal advice and should not take one side over the other. Not all mediators are created equal. Some have more experience than others. Some are practicing family law attorneys, and some are just social workers. Choosing the right mediator for your particular situation can be critical. Also, presenting your side of the story to a mediator in the appropriate fashion could make or break a productive outcome.
It is always advisable to speak to your own attorney first before heading down this road as your attorney may want to suggest some names of mediators that would be good for you and your situation. Your attorney will definitely want to help you present the legal issues to that mediator so you can appear in the best light possible. Mediation is always part of any dispute between parents. Parents can elect to go to mediation early in the process voluntarily (get a head start with your attorney). But if not, the Court will send you to mediation at some point anyway and definitely before the Judge holds a formal trial to decide your issues.
If all of the negotiation and possible mediation is unsuccessful, the court basically conducts its own investigation before a custody decision. This is called a trial. Each side presents evidence and legal arguments. But let us tell you what this is not.
This is not just “show up and say what you want.” There is a formal trial process and Court rules that the judge requires. If you do not comply, then your side of the story and all the proof that you have may not even be considered. A trial is a big deal, and you should have legal counsel to navigate you through it. At a trial, the judge would weigh the evidence and legal arguments of both sides, as well as any experts for its investigation. The decision would be what the judge sees as being in the child’s best interests, given the family’s particular situation.
Agreement Presented to the Judge
If at any time during the process the parents come to an agreement, it would be ultimately presented to the judge and, if it’s approved, would be converted to a formal Court Order.
When you meet with our Bergen County child custody attorneys, we’ll present you with all your legal options and provide you with experienced guidance about what choices may be best for you and your children. There are many options related to child custody and we’ll walk you through each one that applies to your situation.
Our Child Custody Attorneys Help with Sole and Joint Child Custody in New Jersey
MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC will advocate for the best custody arrangement for you and your child. Our advice will consider all possible custody arrangements, while keeping in mind your interests and the practical impact a custody plan would have on your life and your children’s lives.
New Jersey law promotes the concept that it’s in the best interest of the child to have strong, functional relationships with both parents. However, the issue of joint custody in New Jersey is by no means straightforward.
If you want your child to live primarily with you, our child custody lawyer needs to come up with the facts that show it’s in your child’s best interest. If you want to have sole legal custody, that may be more difficult to accomplish unless you can show that the other parent is truly unfit and completely unable to make important decisions concerning your child. It is a high standard. Given the State’s preference that both parents stay involved in a child’s life, a court may be reluctant to agree to that arrangement, unless the facts show it’s the right decision for the child(ren).
How Child Custody Works in New Jersey
Custody arrangements are limited only by the facts of the individual families; you cannot compare your situation to that of anyone else. They are based on a presumption that both parents have the legal right to be part of the child’s life and the child’s best interests are paramount when deciding who has what type of custody. Given that foundation, there is flexibility to try to meet everyone’s needs.
In most cases legal custody is shared, unless one parent doesn’t want to be a parent or faces serious and extreme personal issues. For example, that parent may suffer from severe substance abuse issues or be physically or emotionally abusive.
Physical custody, and whose residence is primary or alternate, can turn on many issues:
- One parent may work less or be in a preferred school district.
- If sports is an important part of a child’s life, participating in a certain league or for a certain school district with a better athletic department may be an issue.
- If the child has spent a lot of time with extended family, a judge may be reluctant to break those bonds for the child to live with a parent some distance away.
- A judge may also want to keep a child in contact with friends.
- Depending on where the parents live, it might be more practical to have the child live with one parent during the school year and with the other during extended holidays and the summer.
- A parent may have health or psychological challenges that make more time with a child less beneficial for both the parent and the child.
- If there are genuine concerns about a child’s safety, one parent may have sole physical custody while the other spends time with the child only while under supervision.
- If the parents live close to each other, it’s less disruptive for the child and more practical to have joint residential custody.
Our Bergen County Child Custody Lawyer Will Help You Determine Your Parenting Time
New Jersey courts use the official term “parenting time” instead of “visitation” (N.J.S.A. 9:2-12.1) to refer to time that a parent and child spend together, regardless of whether the parent is custodial or non-custodial. This emphasizes the fact that a non-custodial parent has an important parenting role that extends beyond just visiting with a child. Don’t take parenting time lightly, particularly the legal arrangement of how that time is divided. Make sure you are not just the fun parent, but are also engaging in typical parental responsibilities while with your child. Interfering with the other parent’s time with your child could violate criminal law (N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4).
If you and your spouse are unable to come up with a parenting plan, our child custody attorneys can help you to understand your rights and negotiate a favorable schedule. You can also take the impasse to the court if it becomes clear that you and the other parent are unable to agree on anything. Ultimately, a judge may have to decide the arrangement in accordance with the best interest of the child, not necessarily what either you or the other parent ideally want. Taking these kinds of issues to a judge is risky, so make sure you understand all the pros and cons before you rush to have a judge decide the issues. When you work with our Bergen County child custody attorney. You can be assured that we will present you with the best options available to you and your child.
Modifications to a Child Custody Agreement
Over time, your family’s situation will, of course, change! What may have worked as part of the child custody and visitation agreement three years ago may not work now. If that’s the case, the parents should negotiate a change that works for everyone.
The kinds of changes that could justify modifying an order include:
- One or both parents have moved further apart than before, so complying with the prior order is difficult or impossible.
- The child’s education is failing because of one of the parents or the child needs to attend a different school.
- Another person living with the parent with residential custody rights is negatively impacting the child.
- A parent refuses to comply with the current parenting time order.
- While caring for the child, a parent is using or under the influence of illegal drugs or is intoxicated with alcohol.
- A parent is abusing the child.
- The child is old enough and mature enough to voice a preference and he or she wants to live with the parent they spend less time with.
If an agreement can be reached, it would be submitted to a judge. They would need to believe the changes are in the child’s best interests and sign a new order putting the new terms into place. If there’s no agreement, the issue would be litigated. The parent wanting the change would need to show at a trial that the change is needed because:
- There’s a significant or substantial change in circumstances.
- It’s in the child’s best interests.
- Not paying or receiving child support is typically not a reason to withhold / suspend/ change visitation.
Often a custody order isn’t the end of the story. They’re modified as the family situation and the needs of the child and parents change as time passes. At MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC our Bergen County divorce and family law attorneys fight for our client’s rights and their children’s interests, whether there’s no custody order or a new one is needed. We try to negotiate a positive settlement that will work for everyone involved. If that can’t be reached, we will go to court and effectively present your case.
Child Custody Lawyers Who Find the Right Custody Arrangement for Your Situation
Custody and parenting time arrangements are often the most contested and difficult family law matters that our attorneys handle on a regular basis. The state of New Jersey takes child custody cases very seriously. This is why it’s so vital to work with our experienced Bergen County child custody lawyers to determine a custody arrangement that is best for you and your children.
At MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our Hackensack child custody attorneys will keep your children’s best interests in mind as we work to find the best custody resolution for your individual situation. One of the benefits of hiring an experienced child custody lawyer is that you’ll have access to all the information and options you need during these stressful decision-making processes and we will navigate the New Jersey courts for you. We will always initially work toward negotiating child custody, child visitation, and even child support that is mutually satisfactory for both parents. By the way, if your custody and parenting / visitation schedule changes significantly, child support may also need to be re-visited and modified.
Our child custody attorneys will not hesitate to protect your legal rights through either prudent and reasonable negotiation or aggressive litigation on your behalf.
Contact Our Skilled Bergen County Child Custody Attorneys for Your Most Delicate Custody Matters
Your children’s lives and future are at stake, so do not try to handle custody or visitation issues alone. Reach out for a consultation with our experienced Bergen County child custody lawyers representing clients in both New Jersey and New York at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC at 201-781-8632 to find out how our child custody lawyers can help you with your custody arrangements.