The New Jersey Legislature has adopted a commitment to encourage continual contact between minor children and their parents. In Atlantic County, the Family Court is responsible for hearing matters relate to child custody, divorce, parenting time, etc. This agency has jurisdiction in Cape May County as well. In child custody cases, the goal of the court is always to make decisions based on what is in the child's best interest.
In child custody actions, the courts are to have no preferences or make any assumptions regarding which parent the child should live with. These custody determinations are made according to statutory provisions that are subject to the specific circumstances involved. The decisions are focused on the child's “safety, happiness, physical, mental, and moral welfare.”
Legal vs Physical Custody
Legal custody is awarded to one or both parties making them responsible for the significant decisions on behalf of the child. Examples include medical care, education, religion, etc. Physical custody pertains to which parent that child will live with. This responsibility remains in effect until the child reaches the age of 18.
Sole vs Joint Custody
Sole custody is awarded exclusively to one parent. Custody may also be shared between the parties when joint custody is awarded. In cases where sole physical custody is awarded to one parent, the other will then generally be allotted parenting time (visitation).
Factors Possibly Considered in Custody Decisions
- Whether the parties have a history of abuse
- Any history of domestic violence in the relationship
- The court may consider the child's preference when they are mature enough
- Any mental or psychological concerns or a history of drug or alcohol problems
- Convicted sex offenders are generally not awarded custody
- The ability of the parties to provide a safe and stable environment and more
Placing Siblings Together
In 2017, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families published a Child Welfare Outcomes Report. Their findings suggest that placing siblings together creates a more supportive and stable environment. Courts have recognized that this is the preferred physical custody arrangement when possible.
A written parenting plan provides both parties with an outline of their parental responsibilities. When the parents are having difficulty working together to create a plan, the Family Court often encourages using a mediator. The plan will contain a schedule that specifies visitation times and the arrangements for vacations and holidays.
Interfering With a Child Custody Order
Interference with a custody order is committed when a minor is taken, detained, or concealed. This action prevents the other parent from having their normal parenting or custody time. This action may also be intended to “evade the jurisdiction of the New Jersey courts.” This may be charged as a second-degree offense if the child is taken out of the country or if the child's whereabouts are not known for more than 24 hours. In most other cases the parent may be charged with a third-degree offense.
Lawyer for Child Custody Cases in New Jersey
Legal actions relating to child custody, visitation, and other family law matters may lead to uncertainty and confusion. It is always important to retain an experienced local attorney in these cases. Joseph D. Lento has a firm understanding of the challenges associated with these circumstances and can be reached at (888) 535-3686 for a case consultation.