Recent data shows that only 22% of New Jersey households are married couples with minor children. There are an estimated 213,310 single mothers and 63,321 single fathers. The New Jersey Family Courts are responsible for hearing child custody cases. Since 1944, the courts have formally stated that custody decisions are made based on what is in the best interest of the child.
Child Custody Types
The courts are tasked with making physical and legal child custody awards. Physical custody is awarded to the parent or guardian who the child will live with. In most cases, the other parent will have designated parenting time based on a visitation schedule. Legal custody awards make one or both parents or guardians responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the child. Examples may include educational, religious, or medically-related decisions.
Considerations in Awarding Child Custody
The courts will make custody-related decisions based on what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. Some of the factors that are taken into account include:
- Any existing relationship between the child and the parents or guardians
- Children older than 12 years old may have their preferences considered
- The ability of the parties to provide a safe and stable family home environment
- How fit the parties are for custodial responsibility
- The ability to provide supervision (childcare) that may be impeded by their employment
- Any history of domestic violence, mental health concerns or problems with drugs and/or alcohol
Understanding Parenting Plans
A parenting plan provides both parties with a written summary of their responsibilities regarding the child. The Family Court will often have the parties create this plan with assistance from a mediator. A complete parenting plan should address the majority of scheduling issues including visitation times, arrangements for vacations and holidays, responsibilities for transportation, etc.
Potential Need for Mediation
The court may find that issues relating to custody or parenting time should be discussed and negotiated with assistance from a mediator. The mediation process will typically last for no more than two months. When the parties are unable to reach a mutually acceptable solution, the Family Court may investigate the circumstances further to make an informed decision.
Supervised Visitation in Burlington County
Having supervised visitation allows for parents and children to continue interaction in noncustodial arrangements. One local program holds supervised visitations each week in community office settings. The goal is to maintain communication between parents and children and potentially create a physical custody arrangement at some point.
Relocation of Custodial Parent
Those with physical custody of a child are likely to need court approval to move a considerable distance away from another parent. Depending on the custody arrangement, such a move may require a formal custody modification. The court will consider whether “a substantial change in circumstances” had occurred since the original custody order was implemented.
The court will also potentially question if the proposed relocation is an action of “good faith.” The relocation may not be intended to impede the other parent's visitation rights. The best interests of the child are (as always) a primary consideration.
Experienced Child Custody Case Representation
Legal actions that relate to your family may create doubt and emotional distress. In child custody cases it is important to receive assistance from a lawyer that is familiar with this area of practice. For a case consultation, contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686.