If you've been notified that you must appear in family court for any reason, it can be extremely overwhelming. You may not be sure where to turn for help. At the Lento Law Firm, Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent his career helping his client navigate the family law experience with ease. Attorney Lento will ensure you are prepared and understand every aspect of your case and subsequent legal strategy beforehand. Whether you are seeking a child custody agreement, enforcing support determinations, or fighting for visitation in loco parentis, Attorney Lento will be able to help.
Hunterdon County Family Court
At the Hunterdon Family Case Management Office & Hunterdon County Justice Center (both located at the same address) – the family court in Hunterdon County – the court oversees all types of family law and juvenile delinquency issues, including divorce, child support, paternity, custody, parent time, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, family crisis, foster care placement, kinship legal guardianship, abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, and adoption. Attorney Lento practices in all areas of family law but concentrates his practice on custody determinations and restraining order hearings.
It can be challenging for even the most amicable couple to come up with child custody agreements without court intervention because of all the emotions involved in their split. For the married couple with children, when they seek a dissolution of their marriage, the court will ask if they have a pre-determined custody agreement they would like entered onto the record. If they do, the court will honor it. But if they don't, the court will consider the factors listed below to determine what type of child custody agreement is in the best interest of the child. This intervention is also true for unwed parents who cannot come up with an agreement and require the court's assistance in creating one.
The judge will consider:
- The ability of the parents to agree upon, discuss and cooperate on matters that involve the child;
- If there is a history of domestic violence;
- The child's needs;
- The preference of the child, if they are old enough (whether a child is old enough depends on their level of maturity, natural age; it is subjective and completely up to the discretion of the judge)
- The stability of the home environment;
- The quality of the child's education;
- The parent's fitness – parents aren't generally thought to be unfit unless a court finds that their conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child; and
- The extent and quality of the time the parents spent with the child before and after their separation.
Once the court determines what they believe to be in the child's best interest, they will match it to a specific custody structure. In New Jersey, there are two types of custody arrangements. Legal custody grants the legal authority to make decisions about your child's health, education, and welfare, to a parent(s), and physical custody is a stipulation of where the child will reside and when. The court can structure the custody agreement however they see fit, including:
- Awarding sole custody to one parent, while the other gets visitation,
- Granting joint legal custody to both parents – they will both make decisions on the child's health, education, and welfare – but give sole physical custody to one parent and visitation to the other,
- Giving both parents joint legal and joint physical custody with both parents having equal visitation, or
- The court could combine any of this in whatever order it wishes, depending on what is in the child's best interest.
Because there are so many emotions involved between the parties, it can be challenging to traverse these proceedings without feeling overwhelmed. Having an attorney to negotiate matters for you, or point out areas of concern beforehand and prepare you for what to expect in court, is essential.
In New Jersey, there are two types of restraining orders: temporary restraining orders and final restraining orders. Both have somewhat long-lasting consequences, but which one you are served will depend on which stage you are at.
Temporary Restraining Orders
When individuals are involved in an act of domestic violence, the police will allow the alleged victim to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) when they report the incident. Law enforcement officials will deliver the TRO to the defendant and notify them of the hearing date. Usually, the hearing is within ten days, which is when the TRO is set to expire. TROs are short-term attempts by law enforcement to prevent further acts of domestic violence until a judge can determine the validity of the first incident and what next steps the parties must take.
Final Restraining Orders
While TRO's are temporary and have short expiration dates, final restraining orders (FRO) last much longer, and some are even permanent. At the TRO hearing, a judge will review the issue of domestic violence. If they determine that the parties were in a domestic relationship and the defendant has committed a predicate act of domestic violence, the judge will consider whether a FRO is necessary. The judge only orders a FRO if they believe it is necessary to prevent further domestic violence that would occur if there was no FRO in place.
Whether the restraining order is temporary or final, they can both have long-term consequences. First, the defendant is photographed, fingerprinted, and entered into a police database – which is a public record. And secondly, it may require them to move from their current living situation, prevent them from working or moving to certain areas, and affect their child custody or support orders.
Family Court in Hunterdon County – MAP
If you are required to attend court in Hunterdon County, you will want to head over to the Hunterdon County Justice Center or the Family Case Management Office at 65 Park Avenue, Flemington, NJ 08822. Just plan to arrive early so you can find parking, locate your courtroom, and review with your attorney beforehand.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help
When you attend family court, you will want an experienced attorney by your side to mitigate your fears. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm takes pride in helping their clients by working diligently to protect their interests. If you or someone you know must attend family court in Hunterdon County for any reason, call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. The Lento Law Firm is here to help.