Best Interest Factors

Parents always work hard to make sure that they provide the best they can for their children.  This holds true in terms of education, nurturing, health care, and access to other opportunities.  In a divorce or separation, parents will have to find a new way to work toward providing the best care for their children in a new paradigm of two separate households.  While the vast majority of cases settle before the final hearing, when the parents are unable to come to a settlement, the parties will have to go to court and let the judge decide issues of custody and visitation.  In New Jersey, the judge will look to the best interest of the child in making this decision.

New Jersey statute 9:2-4 provides the best interest factors a court will consider when making a child custody or visitation decision.  The statute begins by pointing out that the New Jersey legislature has made a specific finding that public policy dictates that children should have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” and the court’s custody order should reflect that public policy consideration.

The statute goes on to list specific factors for best interest that a court may consider when making its visitation and custody order.  These factors place a heavy emphasis on the safety and well-being of the child, and so naturally if there have been issues of violence in the past for either parent, that will be taken into consideration, as well as the fitness of both parents.  The factors also place a heavy emphasis on the parents’ willingness and ability to facilitate a continued strong relationship between the other parent and the children.  The court will look to the parents’ history of demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and agree with each other.  In other words, if one parent has shown that he or she is willing to work with the other parent and compromise, that parent will be in a better position at the final hearing.  The court will also look to how the parties have historically operated as a family unit.  Children thrive on stability, and judges know that divorce or separation is a disruptive and sometimes traumatic event for the children.  To that end, the courts will give significant consideration to which parent has historically been the primary caregiver for the children.  If one parent has been responsible for the lion’s share of all parenting responsibility, then that parent is more likely to be named the primary custodian of the children at a final hearing.  Note that this does not mean that parent will be granted sole legal custody, which is a separate issue from physical custody.

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If you have questions how a court is likely to rule in your child custody case, contact us today.  We have extensive experience in helping our clients understand the considerations and setting goals for their children.

Are you interested in seeking an annulment? If so, contact Williams Law Group, LLC right away. Our family law attorneys will review your case to determine if an annulment is an option. If it is, we will guide you through the process and ensure you make the best decisions for your future. Call our office at (908) 738-8512, email us, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation

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