If you're facing a family court hearing, you may be concerned about what the future holds. You just know that you want what is best for you and your loved ones. It may be your first time attending family court, and it's important to understand that you don't have to do it alone, nor should you try to! An experienced family law attorney can protect what you care most about: your family. Understanding how to navigate the family court system in a way that results in the best positive outcome for you and your loved ones is a necessary skill they can bring to the table. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped countless families over the years advocate for their rights. They can fight by your side and decrease your anxiety while simultaneously crafting a strategy rooted in their many years of experience.
Cumberland County Family Court
Family court hearings are usually handled by the Family Practice Division in Cumberland County. This division is responsible for the different types of family law, ranging from divorce, child support, custody, and parenting time, to juvenile delinquency, abuse and neglect, and paternity matters. They also handle restraining orders, among other things.
Where Will Your Family Court Hearing Be Held?
If you need to attend a family court hearing in Cumberland County, you will need to go to the county's Superior Court, which handles family law matters for the state of New Jersey. Cumberland County's Superior Court is located in Bridgeton. Its address is: Cumberland County Courthouse, 60 West Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ 08302.
When you receive your summons or hearing notice, that should have the location of your hearing as well as the time and date. Check the directions and make sure that you plan ahead and allow enough time for traffic and parking. You'll want to arrive early enough that you have an opportunity to consult with your attorney prior to the beginning of the hearing.
Temporary Restraining Orders and Final Restraining Orders
Restraining orders are serious legal documents that outline terms of communication and interaction between named individuals. They are binding and usually issued as a protective and preventative measure. You may also hear restraining orders referred to as PFAs—protection from abuse. Since restraining orders are court-ordered and legally binding, it's important that if the named individuals reconcile, they honor the restraining order. If not, criminal charges could result. The restraining order will have to be legally dismissed first. A motion must be filed in order for that to happen.
In New Jersey, a restraining order can be issued one of two ways. The first way is through the county Superior Court. During business hours, a judge would issue a temporary restraining order, Monday through Friday. If the courts are closed for the day (or haven't yet opened), a restraining order may be issued the second way: through a law enforcement official. The sheriff or police serve the temporary restraining order, which has an expiration date. Usually, the expiration date and final hearing date are set for no more than ten days after the initial order.
A final restraining order replaces a temporary restraining order and is in effect until the Courts dismiss it. The consequences associated with both are serious, but it's more severe with a final restraining order. When a final restraining order is issued, the police will fingerprint and photograph the named individual prior to entering their name into a statewide database. Restraining orders can impact child support, child custody, and more.
Child Custody in Cumberland County
New Jersey has two types of custody that it uses to decide custody agreements: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child will live, whereas legal custody references the ability to make decisions about the welfare of the child. This sort of decision might include medical and educational choices. Some states favor one parent over the other, however in New Jersey, both parents have equal rights to custody of the child, and custody determinations are made using the Best Interest of the Child standard. This standard focuses solely on what is best for the child and sometimes results in a judge appointing a guardian ad litem to represent a child at the hearing.
Custody agreements can take many forms, depending on what the judge finds during the hearing.
How Does a Judge Make a Custody Determination?
There are many factors that a judge considers when determining how to apportion custody. Legally, the main components are the following:
“In making an award of custody, the court shall consider but not be limited to the following factors: the parents' ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child ; the parents' willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse; the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings; the history of domestic violence, if any; the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent; the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision; the needs of the child; the stability of the home environment offered; the quality and continuity of the child's education; the fitness of the parents; the geographical proximity of the parents' homes; the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation; the parents' employment responsibilities; and the age and number of the children. A parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parents' conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child.”
Finding the Best Family Law Attorney
With so much at stake, you don't want to work with just any attorney. Finding an attorney with experience and expertise, passion and dedication, should be at the top of your to-do-list. It can be a challenge to stay positive during the challenge of navigating court hearings about what you hold so dear. A qualified attorney who can be your champion and your advisor not only protects your rights, but also does so in a way that shoulders some of the burden, so you don't have to carry it all. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped countless families over the years and always do so with compassion, dedication, and expertise. Call 888.535.3686 today to learn about how they can help with your case or contact them online.