If you have a family matter pending in Hudson County, chances are you'll be appearing before the Family Court. Whether you're going through a divorce, defending yourself from a restraining order, or enmired in a custody dispute, you undoubtedly have many questions. An experienced Hudson County family law attorney like attorney Joseph Lento can guide you through the process and the Hudson County Family Court.
Services in Hudson County Family Court
Hudson Family Court hears all actions where the main claim arises out of a family or family-type relationship. The court has jurisdiction over:
- Child support,
- Paternity issues,
- Custody disputes,
- Parenting or visitation time,
- Domestic violence,
- Juvenile delinquency,
- Family crises,
- Foster care placement,
- Kinship legal guardianship,
- Abuse and neglect matters,
- Termination of parental rights, and
Family Court matters are typically heard at the William Brennan Courthouse, while Family Court services and assistance are nearby at the Hudson County Administration Building.
William Brennan Courthouse
583 Newark Ave.
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Hudson County Administration Building
595 Newark Ave.
Jersey City, NJ 07306
The court is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Family Division's main number is 201-748-4400, extension 60810.
Child Custody Disputes in Hudson County
In many divorces and custody disputes, the parties can come to their own agreement concerning custody and visitation of the children. However, when parents can't agree, a judge in the Hudson County Family Court can decide. The judge will consider “the best interests of the child” and look at factors that affect the child's health and wellbeing in determining the family's best custody and visitation options. The factors affecting child custody may include:
- Which parent best meets the child's needs,
- Whether either parent or a member of their household has a history of domestic violence,
- Which parent provides the most stable home environment,
- Whether both parents are fit to raise a child,
- The quality time each parent spent with the child before and after the 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 will typically award joint legal and physical custody, splitting the time between the parents equally. Hudson Count Family Court will also presume that it's best for both parents to share responsibility for their child's wellbeing absent some compelling reason. With joint legal and physical custody, both parents work together to decide about their child's welfare, health, and education. The child can also maintain quality relationships with both parents. However, if one parent has been the primary caretaker for the child's entire life or has siblings in one home, the court may not divide the visitation time equally between both homes.
If the court finds that one parent is “unfit,” the court may also divert from joint legal and physical custody and award legal custody to one parent with limited, supervised, or no visitation time with the unfit parent. A court won't usually find a parent unfit unless they:
- Have a history of drug or alcohol abuse,
- Have a history of domestic violence or other physical violence, or
- Haven't shown any interest in caring for or spending time with the child.
Restraining Orders in Hudson County
Restraining orders in New Jersey are available to those with certain domestic relationships as intimate couples, family, or household members. These relationships include:
- Current or former marriage or cohabitation,
- Dating or intimate relationships,
- Members of the same household, or
- Those who have children together.
If the police notified you to appear in court regarding a restraining order, it was probably a temporary restraining order and a notice of a final restraining order hearing.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
A judge can enter a temporary restraining order (TRO) in an ex parte hearing, meaning only the plaintiff is present. If the judge feels that a TRO is necessary to protect the plaintiff's life, health, or wellbeing, they can issue a temporary order. The judge will also set a hearing for the final protective order within ten days of issuing the temporary order. Both parties should appear at this hearing. If the defendant fails to appear, they could have a final restraining order (FRO) issued against them.
2. Final Restraining Orders
At the FRO hearing, both parties will have the chance to tell their story to the judge. Both parties can introduce evidence, introduce witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses introduced by the other party. Both parties are also entitled to have an attorney represent them in the hearing. While the court doesn't require that both parties have attorneys, a FRO hearing can be hard to navigate without grasping the rules of evidence and the court's rules and procedures.
The judge will enter the final protection order if they find:
- The parties have a domestic relationship that qualifies, like those family relationships listed above.
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence. In New Jersey, there is a wide range of crimes that qualify as domestic violence if the parties are in a familial or family-like relationship. These crimes include stalking, harassment, assault, burglary, kidnapping, and more.
- There is an immediate need for restraints to prevent further instances of domestic violence against the defendant.
A final restraining order can include many measures to protect and support the defendant, including:
- 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, anger management, or group or individual therapy.
The restraining order can also order the defendant from a home that the parties share, even if the defendant owns the home or pays the rent.
When a court enters a FRO, the police will fingerprint and photograph the defendant to enter into the state domestic violence registry. The defendant will also need to pay a $500 fine. New Jersey law also prohibits those with a FRO against them from owning or possessing firearms.
Having a FRO entered can affect custody and visitation of any children, and the defendant may lose custody. The court can also order the defendant to pay support to a spouse and children and continue paying a mortgage, rent, or other shared financial obligations. If the police serve you with a restraining order, you should contact an experienced New Jersey family attorney as soon as possible.
Hire an Experienced Hudson County Family Lawyer
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced family and criminal attorney. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. Mr. Lento and the Lento Law Firm work hard to help their clients obtain the best possible outcome in court. He can help you as well.