Were you served with papers or notified that you need to attend family court in Middlesex County? Attending family court can be an overwhelming experience for anyone, but having an attorney with years of experience in family court can help ease that fear. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm work tirelessly to make the process less intimidating by developing legal strategies that address each area of concern – increasing the chance that the court will uphold your rights. No matter the issue, whether you are fighting a restraining order or requesting one, or attempting to gain child custody, the Lento Law Firm can help.
Middlesex County Family Court
While Attorney Lento works within all areas of family law, he specializes in child custody determinations and restraining order hearings. That being said, the family court in Middlesex oversees several different types of cases, 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.
It can be challenging to come up with a pre-determined child custody agreement whenever partners are getting divorced or splitting up. Most couples need the court to intervene and determine what is in the child's best interest before they can amicably share custody. When the couple seeks a legal dissolution of their marriage, the judge will ask for the child custody agreement, and if there is none, they will consider certain factors to determine what is in the child's best interest. This is true even if the parents were never wed but have a difficult time coming up with a child custody agreement. It's important to note that if the parents, whether they are married or not, can come up with a child custody agreement, the judge will honor that agreement.
The court will consider the following factors:
- 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.
There are two types of custody in Middlesex County: physical and legal. Physical custody stipulates where the child will live, but legal custody gives the parent the legal authority to make or influence decisions regarding their child's health, education, and welfare. After the court reviews the factors above and understands what type of custody arrangement is in the child's best interest, they may evolve the structure of custody based on the family dynamic. They might:
- Award sole custody to one parent, while the other gets visitation,
- Grant 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,
- Give 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.
If you or someone you know is struggling with negotiating a child custody agreement, encouraging them to get legal representation is so important. A skilled attorney will work with the other party and their attorney and mediate an agreement you are both comfortable with. Additionally, they will be able to ensure the court upholds your interests during the custody determination if one cannot be agreed on during mediation.
Restraining orders are the courts' way of separating the defendant and their alleged victim from coming within a certain distance of one another. Depending on what stage of the restraining order process you are in, you may have been served with a temporary restraining order or a final restraining order.
Temprary Restraining Orders
Temporary restraining orders (TRO) are short-term and usually state a specific expiration date. The expiration date tends to happen within ten days of its issuance, and around that time, you will be expected to attend a restraining order hearing where the judge will review the facts and determine the next steps. Law enforcement officials serve TROs after a domestic violence victim reports an incident. The hope is to keep the parties separate so that the judge may hear the case's facts and protect the alleged victim from any harm that might occur during the waiting period.
Final Restraining Orders
Final restraining orders (FRO) are the third step in the restraining order procedure. During the hearing, the judge will determine if the parties were involved in a domestic relationship and whether the defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence against the victim (i.e., did he assault her?). If the judge finds both of these factors to be present and believes that the victim would be subject to further domestic violence, they will most likely decide that a FRO is essential. But, if one or more of the factors above is not present, the court will not enforce a FRO.
Whatever the case, restraining orders can have long-lasting effects on both the defendant's and the victim's lives. For instance, if a court decides that a FRO is necessary, the parties will have to separate – meaning they may have to leave their current living situation. The determination could also affect a defendant's custody and support orders and where they are eligible to work. Further, a defendant will be photographed, fingerprinted, and placed into a public police database – which could influence their reputation down the line.
Family Court in Middlesex County – MAP
The Middlesex County family court is located in the Family Courthouse at 120 New Street, Room 111, New Brunswick, NJ 08903. Don't forget to arrive early and ensure you have time to review with your attorney beforehand. Your attorney will be able to calm your nerves and reaffirm your wants before entering the courtroom.
How an Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help
Experienced attorneys will have helped hundreds of families and individuals navigate family court over the years. They will understand the ins and outs of family court and work hard to protect your interest. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent his professional career helping his clients achieve a desirable outcome in their child custody and restraining order hearings by developing specific legal strategies to advocate for their wants. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation.