As a parent, you find your children to be a singular focus in your mind. There is little in the world more important than their safety, stability, and happiness. When faced with a divorce or separation from the children’s other parent, the questions swirl in your head. What impact will this have on the children? Where will they live?
Child custody law is complex and intricate, but the bottom line is that you have rights to your children. In fact, the law considers the rights of both parents to be equal. Despite this, society clearly has a different view of the roles of mothers and fathers. The impact of these views cannot be understated as they can shape the way a parent is perceived by the numerous people involved in the child custody process, as well as how the court weighs the many factors involved in reaching its custody decisions. Let our Short Hills child custody lawyers help you. The family law attorneys at Williams Law Group can help you navigate this journey and get the answers to your questions so you can have some peace of mind.
For your benefit, we have outlined the factors that courts must consider in their custody decisions and the different types of custody arrangements available.
There are two forms of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make major decisions regarding the child’s health, education, religion, and welfare. Physical custody refers to whom the child primarily lives with. Courts will usually award legal and physical custody in one of several arrangements: joint legal custody to both parents, sole custody to one parent, or shared legal and physical custody.
In this common arrangement, the child will usually live with one parent most of the time, this parent is the residential custodian of the child. The other parent will be provided a standard visitation schedule. This visitation schedule will be determined by the need of the parents and the needs of the child. In addition, this arrangement allows both parents to share in the duties of making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and general welfare.
Sole legal and physical custody of a child is a less common custody arrangement where the parent with whom the child lives also has the ability to make all major decisions for the child, as well as minor decisions. The reason that this is less common is because a judge must make a determination that the other parent is “unfit” in that the “parents’ conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child”. This could include a history of violence, substance abuse, or abuse and neglect (which has not been adequately addressed). However, even if a parent is unfit, a court will still try to allow “appropriate parenting time” which may include supervised visitation.
A custody arrangement is one in which the child spends equal (or almost-equal) time and has equal contact with both parents. Both parents also share in decision making for the child. This arrangement usually occurs by agreement or where a judge determines that the parents can harmoniously co-parent and have a highly effective ability to communicate with one another. This arrangement can also lower a parent’s child support obligation as both parents are sharing in responsibility for the child’s care.
The underlying consideration when a court makes a custody decision is the best interest of the child. The law presumes that it is in the child’s best interest to have frequent and continued contact with both parents. In making an award of custody, the court is required to consider the following factors:
Our experienced local attorneys could further explain the various factors that a court may review when making a child custody decision.
Yes. Agreed custody arrangements are preferred because of how important it is for children that their parents can peacefully co-parent them. In fact, the only way a court can deny a custody agreement is if it is “contrary to the best interests of the child.” If the parents cannot reach an agreement, courts with often order them to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as mediation. If mediation attempts are unsuccessful, the court may require each parent to submit a custody plan which the court shall consider in awarding custody. Our Short Hills lawyers could help one parent draft a child custody agreement that is fair and benefits their kids.
Few things can become as heated and disputed as a child custody case, which can feel like a battle. Fortunately, the experienced Short Hills child custody lawyers at Williams Law Group, LLC can help guide you through this legally complex and emotionally challenging process. If you are involved in a divorce, child custody case, or child abuse and neglect case, you don’t have to face it alone. Contact our firm today for a consultation.