Hackensack Child Custody Lawyers
Do You Feel Disempowered? We will Ensure You Get the Respect You Deserve!
Going through a divorce is stressful enough, but when issues of child custody are involved, the potential for problems increases substantially.
If parents can communicate just enough to be laser focused on the best interest of the children, , they should also be able to come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation on their own. However, it takes both parents to want to willingly engage in agreeing on these issues. Unfortunately, this does not always happen and conflicts over child custody can lead to court battles. .
Our Hackensack child custody lawyers will seek to help you negotiate a child custody agreement where your child is the ultimate “winner.” If agreement with the other parent simply is not possible, we will advocate for your custody rights in court.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED HACKENSACK CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY
New Jersey child custody law is complicated. At [MFR] Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers, a Hackensack child custody lawyer will be there for you providing skilled representation every step of the way. Our advice will consider all elements of your custody arrangements, including joint custody, parenting time, visitation rights, and other matters. Rather than let a negative chain of events unfold, turn to us for legal guidance before issues even start.
Call us today at (201) 880-9770, so we can discuss your unique divorce and custody situation, answer your questions, and show you how we can help. Be assured that we will serve as powerful advocates for you throughout the entire process. If you already have a custody agreement in place but your circumstances have changed, we can advise you about how to modify a child custody arrangement.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR LEGAL OPTIONS FOR CHILD CUSTODY IN NEW JERSEY
Determining a child custody arrangement depends on a range of issues and factors. But there is a primary factor that dictates all decision-making by 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 ultimately determined to be in your child’s best interests, your feelings will not carry the day in a court of law. There are independent evaluators who can help assess what is in a child’s best interest if you and the other parent fundamentally disagree about this. A Hackensack child custody attorney can assist with this, by not only helping you try to negotiate a custody agreement that is mutually satisfactory but also by helping you present the best case before the Court if necessary.
NEW JERSEY CHILD CUSTODY LAW
New Jersey’s general custody policy is spelled out in state statute N.J.S.A. 9:2-4, and states in relevant part:
“…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 to affect this policy. In any proceeding involving the custody of a minor child, the rights of both parents shall be equal….”
These are not just empty words, although it still is not that simple as it may first appear. . 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 or presumptive 50/50 or automatic or presumptive joint custody arrangements. Rather, the courts will consider a wide variety of factors in making custody arrangement decisions.
FACTORS JUDGES CONSIDER IN MAKING CHILD CUSTODY DECISIONS
Under the statute, judges consider the following factors in making child custody decisions:
- 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.
This list is not all-inclusive. Judges may consider additional things depending on the situation. For example, if you are seen by a judge as trying to damage your child’s relationship with the other parent (alienation) or you are 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 Hackensack child custody attorneys will provide sound legal guidance to help you avoid issues that could harm your interests in custody decisions.
TYPES OF CHILD CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS
General custody types include:
- Legal custody allows you to make major important decisions about your child, like medical care, education, and general welfare. Legal custody may be joint (shared) or sole. You do not have to live with your child to have joint legal custody.
- 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 as the parent of an alternate residence.
- No custody rights at all, which typically happens if a parent is unwilling or unable to properly care for the child or make appropriate decisions about the major issues that affect the child. . 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 legal custody rights on paper, they still may be entitled to visitation depending on the circumstances.. However, 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. Examples include:
- 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 is sometimes difficult to work out logistics to have children spend equal time with parents and a lot of this is very much dependent on the reality of certain logistical elements like location between the two parent’s homes or even the work schedule of the parents. DECIDING UPON A CUSTODY AND VISITATION SCHEDULE
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.
A parenting plan—also known as a custody plan—can be jointly agreed to and submitted to the court to make it into a formal Court Order. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will make one for you. Frankly, you don’t want that. Instead, it is better if the parents – who know their children the best— try to come up with these plans in any way that works for them, and 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.
Plans can be quite detailed, depending upon the situation and needs of the parties.
OUR CHILD CUSTODY LAWYER IN HACKENSACK, NJ, CAN HELP YOU NEGOTIATE A PARENTING TIME SCHEDULE
If you and the other parent are unable to come up with a parenting plan on your own, a child custody attorney in Hackensack, NJ, can work to try and help you negotiate a favorable and workable schedule that sets the entire family up for success long term. If it becomes clear you and the other parent are at an impasse, then 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 would want. Ideally, let us help you come to an agreement outside of court and if court is determined to be the only path forward, then we will , we will advocate hard for your position before the judge.
OUR CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEYS IN HACKENSACK ANSWER FAQ’S
Our child custody attorneys hear many common questions from divorcing parents. The following are answers to some of them.
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, whether children can choose where they live. 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 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. As a general rule, Judge’s do shy away from involving the child in any respect unless there are unique circumstances that would warrant it.
Do fathers have equal rights to child custody in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey law, both parents have a right to request custody unless the evidence shows that custody by one (or both) is not in the child’s best interests. 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, must balance a number of factors to make decisions in children’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.
At our law firm, we are strong advocates for good and loving fathers who want to continue to be actively involved in their children’s lives. We want to ensure the family, holistically, comes out of this with an arrangement that benefits all in one way or another.
How is physical custody determined?
How physical custody (otherwise known as Parent of Primary Residence) is determined can turn on many issues. Here are some examples:
- One parent may have a more flexible work schedule, or be in a preferred school district.
- If sports are 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 part of the criteria..
- 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 want to keep a child in contact with current friends or in the same school.
- A parent may have health or psychological challenges that make more time with a child be less beneficial for both the parent and the child.
- If parents live close to each other, it may be less disruptive for the child and more practical to grant joint residential custody.
What if the child’s safety is at stake?
In some unfortunate cases, it is not in the child’s best interests to maintain relationships with one or 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 is not safe with the other parent, you would need credible evidence that they have a substantial adverse effect on the child. A judge would decide if it were 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.
Our child custody attorneys will present a case that clearly documents your position, and we will fight aggressively for you and your child’s best interests and formulate some short-term and long-term options/suggestions to keep everyone safe.
Can grandparents get visitation rights?
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 in a parenting time plan. When producing a parenting time plan, each parent should think about when the grandparent and siblings — and any other extended family — can see the children under that parent’s time. It is a high legal standard that a grandparent or sibling would have to prove to seek visitation with a child independently of the parents.
Contact a Hackensack child custody lawyer to get answers that pertain directly to your situation. Call (201) 880-9770.
NEW JERSEY’S CHILD CUSTODY PROCESS
The child custody process can vary depending on your individual situation. Here is general information about the process and how our attorneys can help you.
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 so long as the child has been in the State of New Jersey for at least six months. If there is also a divorce, then the request for custody and visitation is made as part of the Complaint for Divorce and not as an independent document. 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, though, filing a formal court action is not the way to start. There are times when 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 even if an agreement can be reached outside of court, we will have the judge sign it so it becomes a formal Court Order that can be enforced later if necessary.
If parents cannot negotiate an agreement between themselves, preferably with help from their attorneys, then the next option could be participating in mediation 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. Not all mediators are created equal, however. Some have more experience than others. Choosing the right mediator for your particular situation can be critical. Also, how you present your side of the story to a mediator could make or break a productive outcome.
It is always advisable to speak to your own attorney before heading down this road. 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.
Parents can elect to go to mediation early and voluntarily if there is child custody or parenting time visitation dispute. If they do not, the court will send you to mediation at some point anyhow before the judge holds a formal hearing to decide your issues.
If negotiations and mediation are unsuccessful, the court basically conducts its own investigation through a trial. 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 isa serious court event , and you should have experienced legal counsel to navigate you through it. At trial, the judge will weigh the evidence and legal arguments of both sides, as well as any experts for its investigation. The resulting decision will be what the judge believes is in the child’s best interests, given the family’s particular situation and you and the other parent will be bound by it.
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 converted to a formal Court Order.
OUR CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEYS HELP WITH SOLE AND JOINT CHILD CUSTODY IN NEW JERSEY
New Jersey law promotes the concept that it is 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 is 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 is the right decision for the child.
CONTACT A FATHER’S RIGHTS CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY FOR HELP
Custody and parenting time arrangements are often the most contested and difficult family law matters. When your child’s future is affected and your relationship with your child is potentially at stake, it is critical to get skilled legal help with custody and visitation issues. Reach out for a consultation with our experienced Bergen County child custody lawyers at [MFR] Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers in New Jersey. Call (201) 880-9770 to find out how our child custody lawyers can help you.