Unlike many domestic issues that two parties can address through negotiation, family courts retain ultimate authority over custody and visitation matters. The best interests of the child control legal and physical custody in New Jersey. These determinations often require a thorough analysis of the child’s mental wellbeing, relationships, health, and any neglect allegations.
A Livingston child custody lawyer could assist you in asserting your parental rights, petitioning for parenting time modifications, and representing your children as a guardian ad litem. When our family law attorneys take on a case, we want to help you fight for the wellbeing of your family.
Custody orders require family judges to address three types of parental responsibility in New Jersey – physical custody, legal custody, and visitation. Physical custody determines where a child will live, while visitation describes a non-custodial parent’s right to physically see and/or interact with their child. Legal custody speaks to which guardian retains general decision-making rights over their child’s healthcare, education, religious needs, and overall welfare.
New Jersey General Statute §9:2–4 encourages courts to presume each parent has equal rights during custody proceedings. This means that courts generally like to give both parents the opportunity to share legal and physical custody unless there is history of abuse or neglect from one party.
In cases where one parent does not maintain a child-friendly residence or lives out-of-state, courts may award physical care of the child to one parent while granting the other visitation rights. Parents, grandparents, and siblings without legal or physical custodial rights may petition for visitation in New Jersey as well. A local attorney may review a child custody case and work with one parent to establish a fair arrangement.
Despite encouraging shared custody, N.J. Gen. Stat. § 9:2-4a unequivocally states that the child’s best interests take precedence during custody litigation. Therefore, some factors may override certain parental rights if they go against the child’s best interests. When determining what may be best for a child, the court may consider:
While family judges must consider these factors, they may address any other concerns raised by legal counsel. Additional considerations may include the child’s overall emotional maturity and relationships with a parent’s significant other. In complex child custody cases, courts may appoint a guardian ad litem solely to investigate and represent the child’s best interests. A skilled lawyer in Livingston could explain how the best interests of the child standard may impact a particular custody case.
When spouses separate, courts may enter temporary custody and visitation orders pending divorce. New Jersey family judges typically finalize custody with the divorce decree and hesitate to change any permanent orders. However, a dedicated lawyer may petition for an emergency change to child custody. Emergency grounds for altering physical or legal custody in favor of one parent or another interested guardian may include:
Grandparents, adult siblings, or the Department of Children and Families may file emergency custody petitions. State officials may remove a child before requesting a transfer of custody. If third parties or the state intervenes in a parental dispute, consider retaining qualified family counsel immediately.
Whether you recently separated from a spouse, experienced a change in circumstance, or were subject to an overzealous DCF investigation, you should assert your parental rights. A dedicated Livingston child custody lawyer could help you apply the best interest of the child factors to your situation and recommend a workable custodial arrangement. No matter the nature of your case, contact our experienced family law team in New Jersey today.