If you have a case pending in Bergen County Family Court, your matter will be heard at the Bergen County Justice Center by the Family Division. The Family Court is part of the New Jersey court system for Bergen County, found in the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack.
Services in Bergen County Family Court
The Family Division of the Bergen County Justice Center handles all actions where the principal claim is unique to the family or arises from a family or family-like relationship. The family court has jurisdiction over:
- Child support,
- Paternity matters,
- Parenting time and visitation,
- Domestic violence,
- Juvenile delinquency,
- Family Crises,
- Foster care placement,
- Kinship legal guardianship,
- Abuse and neglect,
- Termination of parental rights, and
The Bergen County Justice Center is located at:
10 Main Street
Hackensack, New Jersey 07601
The court is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Family Division's main number is 201-221-0700, extension 25170.
Child Custody Disputes in Bergen County
If you and your co-parent can't agree on custody and visitation of your children, a judge in the Bergen County Family Court can make this decision. The judge will consider “the best interests of the child” in making custody and visitation decisions and will look at many factors, including:
- The child's needs and which parent best meets them,
- Any history of domestic violence by either parent or by a member of a parent's household,
- The stability of each home environment,
- Each party's fitness to parent,
- The amount of time each parent spent with the child before and after their separation,
- The quality of the child's education at each home,
- The child's preference if appropriate and the child is 12 or older, and
- Any other relevant factors.
New Jersey courts tend to favor joint legal and physical custody with the time split 50/50 between parents. The court presumes that it's best for both parents to share responsibility for their child's well-being. In this arrangement, both parents will make decisions about their child's welfare, health, and education, and the child can maintain relationships with both parents. However, if one parent has been the primary caretaker for the child's entire life, or if the child has siblings in one home, the court may deviate from a 50/50 split.
If there's a reason that one parent is “unfit,” the court may also consider alternate arrangements. A court typically won't find a parent unfit unless the parent:
- Has a history of drug or alcohol abuse,
- Has a history of domestic violence, or
- Hasn't shown any interest in caring for or providing for the child.
Restraining Orders in Bergen County
Restraining orders in New Jersey are available to those with certain domestic relationships, including:
- A current or former marriage,
- A dating relationship,
- Members of the same household, or
- Parties that have one or more children together.
If the police served you with a restraining order, it was either a temporary restraining order or a final restraining order.
Temporary Restraining Orders
A judge can enter a temporary restraining order (TRO) without both parties present in an informal ex parte hearing. If the judge feels that a TRO is necessary to protect the plaintiff's life, health, or well-being, they will issue the temporary order. Simultaneously, the judge will set a hearing for the final protective order, usually within ten days. If the court serves you with a TRO, you should plan to appear for the final restraining order hearing. If you don't, the court could enter a final order that will significantly impact your life without hearing your side of the story.
Final Restraining Orders
At the final hearing, both parties can have a lawyer there to represent them. Both parties can also introduce evidence and witnesses and cross-examine witnesses from the other party. While you don't have to have an attorney, the hearing does follow both the court's rules and the rules of evidence. As a result, a final protection order hearing can be difficult to navigate without a lawyer successfully. A final protection order can have lasting consequences, and you should have an attorney present if at all possible.
The judge will enter the final protection order if they find:
- The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship.
- The defendant committed an act of violence: Acts of domestic violence include assault, harassment, terroristic threats, criminal restraint, stalking, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal trespass, robbery, criminal coercion, cyber harassment, contempt of a domestic violence order that is a crime or “disorderly persons offense,” or any other crime that involves the risk of death or serious bodily injury.
- There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further instances of domestic violence.
A final restraining order is typically more detailed than a temporary protective and can include provisions that provide:
- No contact or harassment between the plaintiff and the defendant.
- Temporary custody of any children.
- Financial support, including rent, mortgages, and other financial obligations.
- Protection from violence.
- Preventing the defendant from owning or possessing firearms.
- Counseling or therapy.
A final restraining order is permanent in New Jersey, and the court will only reconsider the order on the motion of one of the parties.
If a court agrees to a FRO, the defendant will face a $500 fine, and the police will collect fingerprints and photographs to place them in a domestic violence registry. New Jersey law prohibits those with a FRO against them from owning or possessing firearms. In some cases, police will remove the defendant from their home even if they own it. The defendant can lose custody of any children, and the court can order the defendant to pay spousal and child support and continue paying a mortgage or rent. If the police serve you with a restraining order, it's essential to contact an experienced New Jersey criminal and family attorney as soon as possible.
Hire an Experienced Bergen County Family Lawyer
Attorney Joseph D. Lento can work quickly to protect your rights in court. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm take pride in helping his clients obtain the best possible outcome in family court. Let him help you as well.