Child Custody in Salem County

Home to over 60,000 residents, Salem County, New Jersey, is situated between Gloucester and Cumberland counties and has a bridge that links the state of New Jersey to the state of Delaware. The Salem County Superior Court, located in Salem, NJ, oversees all legal matters in the county. Matters pertaining to Family Law, including child custody, are resolved within Salem County Superior Court's Family Division.

Salem County parents who decide to separate must take into account a number of legal questions, including custody and care for their children. These considerations are serious and require navigating a sometimes complex legal process.

The Family Law Team at Lento Law Firm has years of experience in family law, including custody cases in Salem County, New Jersey. To start the conversation, call (888) 535-3686 or contact us here.

What You Need to Know About Custody

Given Salem County's proximity to both Delaware and Pennsylvania, it is possible that a family could be split across more than one state. But knowing which state has jurisdiction is critical in custody battles.

To clarify matters, New Jersey has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act (UCCA). Under this law, any custody proceedings will be held within whatever state is deemed to be the child's "home state." A home state is typically the state where a child has primary residence from a standing custody agreement or where a child has lived for a greater period of time. Once it is determined that Salem County will be the county where a custody matter will take place, the process will move forward according to New Jersey state law.

Salem County custody is settled through a multi-stage process. The first stage for all child custody cases is a period of mediation. The purpose of mediation is to attempt to resolve the custody matter before it reaches the courtroom while also providing an environment for parents to resolve their situation amicably. If a child custody matter cannot be settled through mediation, then the case will have to be heard by a judge.

Judges in Salem County Superior Court's Family Division will always rule in favor of what is deemed to be "in the best interest of the child." While a child's "best interest" is determined by a number of different factors, Salem County weighs the child's physical safety and well-being higher than most other factors.

Since the court prioritizes the physical safety of the child over other factors, prior instances or threats of domestic violence are treated more seriously than other factors. These issues directly pertain to physical safety. Other factors that will be considered include the child's age, the relationship with the parents, the terms of any prior custody agreements, and more.

The legal responsibility for making decisions about a child's living situation, schooling, and even religious faith are all connected to who has legal custody. Cases that determine custody can be understandably hostile.

When going through any custody battle, it is important to retain the services of an experienced family law attorney. Even during the mediation stage, the counsel of an attorney can make all the difference between a favorable agreement and one that feels unfair. An attorney will be able to educate you on potential outcomes and can argue your case in court.

Custody and Child Support

Deciding on child custody is complicated. It isn't as simple as deciding where a child lives and with whom. It's also about deciding who shoulders the financial burden, deciding where a child goes to school, who pays for medical care, and where and how the child lives.

The courts must decide what percentage of support each parent is responsible for, and while this may coincide with custody and the percentage of time a child spends with each parent, it may not. Custody and support are separate issues.

What About the Grandparents?

Grandparents are often tapped to help with childcare when parents divorce.

But legally, grandparents play little part in child custody and may not even be eligible for visitation. They only get those rights if a court decides to grant them.

Child Custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, custody of a child is either physical—where the child lives—or legal, meaning who has the authority to make decisions about them.

Physical Custody

Physical custody must be determined until a child reaches the age of 18. Who has physical custody of a child dictates who lives with the child and provides for them in the day-to-day.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is given to the parent who must make decisions about the child's future, including their religion, education, and healthcare.

Joint Custody v. Sole Custody

The courts have the final say on whether a parent has joint or sole custody of their child.

Joint Custody

Under joint custody, both parents are involved in caring for the child. But there are two distinct types of joint custody. Physical joint custody means that the parents divide the physical share of the child, usually trading off weeks or months of the calendar. Legal joint custody means that both parents are responsible for the important decisions in a child's life.

"Joint custody" may sound like you split care 50-50, but that's not always the case. In fact, at times, "joint custody" may feel very favorable to one parent and not the other. Sometimes, one parent gets majority custody, and the other parent only gets the children on weekends or for school vacations. The percentage of time the child spends with each parent is determined by the court.

Sole Custody

When one parent lives with and makes decisions for the child, custody is considered "sole custody." If a parent can prove that the other parent is unfit—abusing or neglecting the child—sole legal custody may be awarded.

Child Custody Orders in New Jersey

"Custody orders," issued by New Jersey courts, dictate the level between children and both their parents in a divorce. Custody determinations come in three kinds: emergency, temporary, and final.

Emergency Custody Orders

Emergency custody orders are short-term solutions that are issued when the court determines that there has been neglect or abuse. Courts will also issue these emergency orders if they think that the parent is a flight risk—and might be taking the child with them.

Temporary Custody Orders

Temporary custody orders are valid until the court holds a hearing for naming long-term custody. Under temporary custody orders, one parent might have physical custody, and the other may be granted visitation.

Final Custody Orders

A final custody order grants the families and, most importantly, the children a sense of stability. These orders can last until the child turns 18. But final custody orders are not set in stone. They can be changed by filing another petition with the court.

Custody: Can a Child Choose?

If the child is a minor—under 18 years of age--New Jersey law states that they do not have the right to decide whom they live with. The courts are responsible for gathering information to make a decision about whom the child is raised.

Very young children who do not yet understand the situation have little say in who gets custody of them. The court must consider what is in the child's best interest by talking to professionals and specialists who can provide insight into the case.

When a child is older, courts will consider the minor's opinions.

Determining Custody

Courts assess the different options a child may have to see which custody situation will benefit the child most. The court is barred from ruling using opinions based on preconceived notions about who makes a better parent or can provide a better home. Judges who violate this guideline are running afoul of custody law.

Courts must not grant either parent preferential treatment when determining custody. If you feel that a court is favoring a parent in the custody rulings, you should seek legal help.

Judges must take some legal considerations into account when deciding on custody. These include psychological concerns, criminal history, past incidents of abuse, and the ability of the parent to provide a safe and stable home for the child.

Keeping Siblings Together

It is the responsibility of the court to determine the best environment for raising a child when determining who gets custody. A 2017 report by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families found that placing siblings together creates a more supportive and stable environment. Since that time, courts have been attempting to keep siblings together whenever possible.

Salem County, New Jersey: The Child Custody Process

In New Jersey, child custody cases and divorce cases are handled by the Family Court. The New Jersey Legislature publicly states that it is committed to fostering an environment of continual contact between parents and their minor children. The goal is to find a situation that serves the best interest of the child. All cases follow a sequence of steps:

File for Custody

Filing for custody with the family division of the Salem County court is the first step. You must go in person to the Family Court Intake Courthouse at 92 Market Street, Salem, NJ, 08079.

In cases where there may be a risk of physical harm to the child, a judge may hear your filing on the day you file and issue an emergency order.

Create a Parenting Plan

Parents should collaborate on the creation of a parenting plan that outlines each parent's responsibilities. This plan may include details about visitation and scheduling of holidays or vacations. This plan is then reviewed by a judge to see if it is in the child's best interest, at which point the judge will sign and validate the agreement.


If you cannot independently reach an agreement about custody, the Family Court can help you find a mediator. The court may do a custody evaluation to see what plan will be in the child's best interest.


The custody case may move to a formal hearing if an agreement cannot be reached.

In a hearing, the parents will make their cases before a judge. It can be hard to predict the outcome of a hearing, but the judge makes their determination based on what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

Appealing a Decision

Each side of a custody case has the right to appeal a decision either to the Family Court or to take the case to the Superior Court. The Lento Law Firm Team can walk you through the appeals process and explain how it may work on your case.

Custody Agreement Modification

During the course of childhood, parents' circumstances can change. The custody rulings of the court must reflect that. If the custody or child supper situation changes, you can request a modification of the custody order. The best interest of the child must be reflected in these modifications.

Violating a Child Custody Order

When a parent violates or interferes with the terms of the custody order, they are guilty of committing an offense. These violations include:

  • Neglecting the child
  • Failing to return the child to the other parent
  • Detaining the child
  • Taking the child out of state without the other parent's permission

These acts may even constitute 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.

Do I Need an Attorney for My Child Custody Case?

No. Custody agreements can be made without a lawyer. However, the court process is complex, and some custody cases can be complicated and have time limits. There may be some unpredictability or unforeseen effects. A lawyer can help you navigate all of these situations.

The Lento Law Firm Team can inform you of your rights and help you deal with your custody matter with confidence.

Contact a Family Law Attorney Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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