If you have a family matter pending in Passaic County, you will probably end up in Passaic County's Family Court. Whether you're going through a divorce and division of property, a child custody dispute, or you need to defend yourself from a restraining order; you don't have to do this alone. An experienced Passaic County family law attorney like attorney Joseph Lento can guide you through the process and the Passaic County Family Court.
Services in Passaic County Family Court
Passaic County Family Court receives all cases where the main claim arises from the family or a family-type relationship. The court has jurisdiction over:
- Division of marital property,
- Family crises,
- Child and spousal support,
- Paternity matters,
- Child custody,
- Parenting time and visitation,
- Domestic violence,
- Juvenile delinquency,
- Foster care placement,
- Termination of parental rights,
- Kinship legal guardianship, and
- Abuse and neglect matters.
In Passaic County, you can handle child custody matters at the Passaic County Courthouse. The Passaic County Family Court services and intake are in the same building.
Passaic County Courthouse
77 Hamilton St.
Paterson, NJ 07505
The courthouse is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The Family Division's main number is 973-653-2910, extension 24390.
Child Custody Disputes in Passaic County
Often, the best solution to a child custody dispute is to mediate or work together with your co-parent to agree upon custody and visitation mutually. The court almost always prefers when parents can agree on child custody matters. But if you just can't agree, a Passaic County Family Court judge can rule on the matter. To determine custody, the court will determine what is in "the best interests of the child." As part of that determination, the court will look at many factors in both households, including:
- How each parent meets their child's needs,
- How much quality time they spent with the child before and after separating,
- Which home offers the best quality of education,
- Which home offers the most stable, loving, and nurturing environment for the child,
- If the child is over 12, their preferences,
- Whether either parent or someone in the parent's household has a history of domestic violence,
- Whether both parties are fit parents, and
- Any other relevant factors.
In New Jersey, the courts presume that it's in the best interests of a child to have a relationship with both parents and allow both parents to jointly make decisions about their child's health, welfare, and education. As a result, courts will default to joint legal and physical custody of a child unless there is some compelling reason to change that arrangement. For example, if one parent has been the primary caregiver for the child's entire life or has siblings in one home, the court may diverge from a 50/50 split of visitation or parenting time.
Likewise, if the court finds one parent "unfit," the judge may award sole legal and physical custody to the other parent. A judge won't usually find a parent unfit unless they have:
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse,
- A history of domestic violence, or
- No interest in raising the child or the child's wellbeing.
If one parent is unfit, the court may limit their visitation with the child or only allow supervised visitation.
Restraining Orders in Passaic County
To obtain a restraining order in Passaic County, you must have a family or domestic relationship with the defendant. These qualifying domestic relationships include:
- Current and formerly married couples,
- Current and former cohabitating couples,
- People who share a child,
- People currently or formerly dating, or
- Members of the same household.
New Jersey law doesn't generally allow restraining orders for strangers, coworkers, neighbors, or classmates. If the police serve you with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), you should also receive notice of a hearing before a judge for a Final Restraining Order (FRO). When you receive this, you need to contact a Passaic attorney experienced in family and criminal law. A judge will only issue a restraining order against you if they believe that you have committed an act of domestic violence. So, it's a good idea to consult an attorney and discuss your options.
1. Temporary Restraining Orders
A judge can enter a TRO with only the plaintiff present. However, when issuing the TRO, the judge will also set a hearing for the FRO. This FRO hearing will typically happen within ten days. The police will then serve you with the TRO and the notice of hearing. At the same time, they may remove you from a home you share with the plaintiff, and they may confiscate any weapons you have.
2. Final Restraining Orders
For the FRO hearing, you may have an attorney present. While it's not required, navigating the hearing, the rules of evidence, and figuring out how to effectively cross-examine witnesses can be a challenge for those without legal training. An experienced attorney can help.
At the hearing, you and the plaintiff will have the opportunity to share your stories. You can also cross-examine the plaintiff's witnesses and introduce evidence and witnesses of your own. A judge will only enter a FRO if they find that:
- The parties have a qualifying domestic relationship such as a current or former marriage, dating relationship, or have a child together,
- The defendant committed an act of domestic violence against the plaintiff. In New Jersey, many crimes are considered domestic violence, including harassment, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, and more.
- The FRO is necessary to protect the plaintiff from further acts of domestic violence.
Because the purpose of the FRO is to protect and support the plaintiff, the judge can include a wide variety of provisions in the FRO, including:
- Prohibiting the defendant from contacting the plaintiff in any way, including in-person or electronically,
- Granting temporary custody of the children to the plaintiff,
- Ordering the defendant to pay child and spousal support and ordering the defendant to continue to meet shared financial obligations,
- Protecting the plaintiff from violence, harassment, or the threat of violence from the defendant,
- Preventing the defendant from owning or possessing firearms, and
- Ordering the defendant into counseling or therapy.
If you share a home with the plaintiff, the FRO may order you to leave home even if you own or rent it. The FRO can also order you to continue to pay bills like rent, mortgage, car payments, insurance, and any other shared financial obligations.
If a court enters a FRO against you, New Jersey and federal law prevent you from owning or possessing a firearm. The police may also confiscate any weapons that you already own. The court will also impose a $500 fine, and the police will fingerprint and photograph you to enter into the New Jersey domestic violence registry.
A FRO does not expire, and the order will remain in place until one of the parties moves the court to modify or remove the order. An active FRO can affect any pending custody dispute you have, it can prevent you from holding certain jobs, and it can have long-term impacts on your life. You need an experienced attorney to guide you through this process.
Hire an Experienced Passaic County Family Lawyer
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are experienced in both family and criminal law and work hard to protect his clients' rights in court. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can fight for you. Call us today at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation.