Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many parents in New Jersey find favorable resolutions in custody cases. To learn more, call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help Protect Your Rights in a Custody Battle
Few things can cause more contention during a divorce than the question of custody of the children. While most parents want to act in the child's best interests, disputes over who gets the child and who makes the primary decisions can get very nasty, very quickly. And without experienced legal representation, you could easily find your parental rights severely diminished in a custody battle—or worse, revoked completely. If you're facing a custody battle in New Jersey, an experienced and knowledgeable child custody attorney can make sure your rights are protected while also looking out for the child's best interests.
Types of Custody in New Jersey
In New Jersey, there are two sides to child custody that parents must work out: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about the child's upbringing, such as decisions about education, health care, and religious affiliation. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child will live and who will have primary responsibility for their care. Most custody agreements will result in some level of sharing custody, both physical and legal. In rarer cases--for example, if one parent has a history of violence or is otherwise deemed incompetent or unsafe for the child—one parent will have complete physical and legal custody.
In New Jersey, joint custody occurs when both parents share custody of the child equally, or very nearly so. Joint custody typically refers to both physical and legal custody: the child spends roughly 50 percent of their time with one parent and 50 percent with the other (physical custody), and both parents must agree on major decisions concerning their child's welfare (legal custody).
Shared custody is similar to joint custody, but the time is not divided equally. Rather, the state assigns one parent as the "Parent of Primary Residence" (PPR) and the other as the "Parent of Alternate Residence" (PAR). In a shared physical custody arrangement, the child spends at least two overnights per week with the PAR and the rest of the time with the PPR.
Sole custody is legally defined as an arrangement where one parent has primary or sole responsibility for the child, meaning the child stays with the non-custodial parent for fewer than two overnights per week. The non-custodial parent is usually awarded "parenting time" (New Jersey's term for "visitation rights").
Whether the agreement is for joint custody, shared custody, or sole custody, legal custody is almost always shared 50/50 unless one parent either relinquishes their legal right or is found unsuitable or incompetent.
How Does New Jersey Family Court Decide Custody?
It's always best for parents to decide by mutual agreement what the custody arrangement will be for their child(ren)—and New Jersey encourages parents to iron out custody agreements between themselves whenever possible. If the parents cannot agree, the next step is mediation with the assistance of a Divorce Mediator. If they cannot agree through mediation, both parents will submit their own drafted custody plans to the court. At that point, using the child's best interests as the primary standard, the judge will either choose one of the two drafted plans or draw from both plans to formulate their own plan.
Factors that the judge will take into account in custody arrangements include, but are not limited to:
- The child's specific needs
- Cooperativeness of the parents
- Educational needs (e.g., where the child attends school)
- How close the parents live to each other
- How much time the child spent with parents prior to their separation
- Parental employment
- Ability of each parent to care for the child's physical and emotional needs
- Preference of the child (if they are old enough)
History of Domestic Violence and/or Child Abuse
If there is a demonstrated history of domestic violence or child abuse, the judge must take this factor into consideration when awarding custody. Any active restraining orders will also play into this decision. New Jersey courts are required to presume that it is not in the best interest of the child for an abuser to have custody or unsupervised visitation rights with the child. The court may still grant joint legal or physical custody if it is determined that the parent accused of abuse can safely care for the child with the help of a parenting plan that minimizes contact between the abuser and the victim.
Experienced New Jersey Custody Attorney
If you cannot come to an agreement with your child's other parent regarding custody, the best way to ensure your rights are protected and to work for a favorable resolution is to hire an experienced New Jersey family law attorney to help you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping parents work through even the most complex custody cases while keeping the child's best interests in mind. Your attorney can do the following:
- Appear alongside you in mediation sessions to represent you and ensure your rights are protected with any resulting agreement
- Help you draft a convincing custody plan to present to the court if mediation fails
- Represent you in New Jersey Family Court to make sure your side is heard and defend against any wrongful accusations before the judge makes a decision
- Assist you with filing paperwork to amend a custody agreement if the current one no longer serves your child's needs
Don't go through the custody battle process alone—let attorney Joseph D. Lento help you protect your rights every step of the way. Call 888-535-3686 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with Mr. Lento today.