It can be daunting for anyone to attend family court, especially when you don't know what to expect. Having a knowledgeable attorney working on your side can help ease that which overwhelms you and ensure you are entirely prepared for the experience. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been working in family law for many years and prides himself on developing legal strategies for his clients that increase the probability of their best possible outcome. Whether you are pursuing child support and custody determinations, grandparent visitation, or a restraining order, the Lento Law Firm can help.
Somerset County Family Court
The Family Practice Division in Somerset County supervises different types of family law, 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.
Child custody determinations come about when parents decide to split up and cannot come up with an agreement without court intervention. For parents who were married, and the marriage resulted in children, when they seek a legal dissolution of their marriage, the court will ask if they have a child custody agreement ready. If they do, the court will honor it, but if they don't, the court will make the determination for them. This is true even if the parents are unwed but are having a hard time coming up with child custody arrangements.
In New Jersey, there are two types of custody – legal and physical. Physical custody decides where the child will reside, and legal gives the authority to the parent to be able to make decisions on the child's health, education, and welfare. To determine what structure of custody will work for your family, the judge will review certain factors to decide what is in the child's best interest.
First, the judge will review:
- 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 determined 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.
They will then continue to mold the custody agreement to match what is in the child's best interest. For instance, 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.
It's essential to have a skilled attorney working for you during this process. Attorneys, like Attorney Lento, have years of experience negotiating child custody agreements with opposing counsel and working with judges to ensure the court upholds your interests.
Like many other states, New Jersey has a specific restraining order process that includes starting with a temporary restraining order, a preliminary hearing, and a declaration on the necessity of a final restraining order.
Temporary Restraining Orders
When an alleged victim of domestic violence initially reports the incident, the police will give them an opportunity to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the defendant. If they decide to follow through with it, the police will serve the defendant right away. The TRO will state the hearing date and the expiration date (generally, they are the same date or, at the very least, close to one another). The point of a TRO is to separate the parties until a judge can decide on the next steps they should take.
Final Restraining Orders
Final restraining orders (FRO), on the other hand, are generally more permanent. A judge will review the facts of the domestic violence incident during the TRO hearing and will decide whether a FRO is necessary. A judge will only determine a FRO as essential if the parties were involved in a domestic relationship, and the defendant committed a predicate act of domestic violence. The court hopes that the FRO will prevent further domestic violence from occurring.
Both restraining orders have long-term consequences. For instance, if the court decides a FRO is necessary, the defendant may have to move out of their current living situation. It could also affect their child custody or support orders, where they work, or if they are eligible for promotions. Additionally, defendants are fingerprinted, photographed, and placed into a public police database.
Family Court in Somerset County – MAP
To attend family court in Somerset County, you'll need to visit the Family Case Management Office, Courtroom, 2nd Floor, Somerville, NJ 08876. It's crucial to arrive ahead of time, so you can review with your attorney ahead of time.
How a Qualified Family Law Attorney Can Help
Most often, the cases heard in family court represent deep emotions and family ties. It can be hard to keep your mindset upbeat when you struggle to agree with an ex-partner or fight for your visitation rights. Working with a qualified attorney, who will act as both advisor and champion on your behalf, will ensure your interests are protected. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm take pride in helping his clients negotiate and fight for their intrinsic rights. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. The Lento Law Firm can, and wants to, help you navigate the family law terrain.