Domestic violence, regardless of whether you have been convicted or wrongly accused, can have a serious impact on a parent's right to custody of his or her child in the state of New Jersey. In fact, it can mean the loss of custody.
Domestic violence defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has been representing clients for 15 years – he knows what the stakes are in your domestic violence case. He is committed to upholding your child's best interests and yours, which is building a strong relationship. That also means fighting domestic violence charges. Here's an overview of how domestic violence can impact your child custody.
Domestic Violence: What it Means & Who it Involves in New Jersey
Domestic violence occurs when a person commits certain criminal acts against certain people.
Examples of New Jersey offenses that can include domestic violence are the offenses of:
- criminal restraint
- false imprisonment
- terroristic threats
- sexual assault
- criminal trespass
These offenses qualify as domestic violence when the alleged victim is related or associated with the alleged offender as:
- a current or former girlfriend or boyfriend
- a current or former spouse
- the other parent of your child
- a child – natural, adopted, or step
- a parent
- a grandparent
- a current or former roommate or housemate.
When one of the above-listed crimes is committed against any one or more of the above-listed persons, domestic violence can be charged. What's more: the alleged victim can file a criminal complaint and seek civil relief. This relief is a temporary or permanent restraining order. The restraining order outlines the terms and conditions, which may prevent you from seeing your children or make hard for you to do so.
The restraining order, however, is the least of your problems since you will face criminal charges that can have a greater negative impact on child custody than the restraining order may have.
A Conviction of Domestic Violence & Its Impact on Child Custody in New Jersey
A conviction will have a serious impact on child custody. In New Jersey, there are primarily two forms of custody:
- physical custody, which means actual physical control over the child – in other words, the child lives in your home; and
- legal custody, which means participation in making decisions about the child's life, whether it's about religion, education, medical decisions, or other important major decisions.
With regard to physical custody, there are three types:
- sole physical custody, which means one parent has the child full-time;
- shared physical custody, which means the child stays with both parents during the week but the time shared is not equal (e.g., the child stays at one home for 5 nights and the other for 2 nights);
- joint physical custody, which means parents split custody equally.
If you have any of the above arrangements or are in the middle of a custody battle, then it is imperative to fight domestic violence charges. The State of New Jersey has a list of issues it considers when judges determine what's in the best interests of the child regarding child custody. Domestic violence is one of these specific factors, and it can be any pattern of domestic violence – it does not have to be domestic violence targeted at the child.
If domestic violence or accusations of it exist at the time of a child custody battle, the judge – with respect to the domestic violence –will consider the following:
- Who was the intended victim of the domestic violence?
- Does the alleged offender still pose a threat?
- Does the alleged offender have a criminal record generally and a history of domestic violence specifically?
- Is there a pattern of domestic violence?
- What injuries occurred due to the domestic violence (and this can be physical as much as it can be emotional and mental)?
- What is the testimony of police officers and witnesses involved in the domestic violence event(s)?
Based on the judge's determination, the judge may order the alleged offender to obtain therapy or attend treatment or anger management classes. The judge may also deny custody temporarily while granting some kind of visitation. In worse case scenarios, the judge may permanently revoke your parental rights.
A False Allegation of Domestic Violence & Its Impact on Child Custody in New Jersey
Truthful allegations of domestic violence can be detrimental to you and your chances of obtaining or maintaining custody of your child. If, on the other hand, false accusations were made, then the other parent who made those false allegations may experience her or his child custody rights limited or denied.
The court frowns on false accusations and may view the accusing parent as unfit or unstable.
Domestic Violence, Child Support & Visitation
If you are convicted of domestic violence, then you should know that you may still have visitation rights – that all depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. The court in most instances prefers some kind of interaction between a child and his or her parent. Parent-child relationships are vital to a child's personal well-being and growth. Though visitation is not the same as custody, it is a possible option.
You should also know that if there was some type of child support order in place at the time of the domestic violence event, you still have to follow the terms of the child support, and that means you still have to stay current on payments. To not do so can lead to more legal woes.
Contact a New Jersey Domestic Violence Attorney Today
It is important to fight any accusation or charge of domestic violence, especially if you have custody of your child or aim to get custody of your child. New Jersey domestic violence defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Each case is unique, and as such, he will develop a unique approach to your case. Contact his office today at 888-535-3686 to learn more about his approach to criminal defense in New Jersey.