Family court can be an intimidating experience if you don't know what to expect. But what if you had a skilled attorney on your side from the very beginning? Someone to explain the matter, point out any concerns ahead of time, and thoroughly prepare you for your day in court? Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping his clients navigate family law issues by creating legal strategies that will increase their chances at the best possible outcome. No matter the family law issue, the Lento Law Firm can help.
Union County Family Court
The family court in Union County – called the Union Family Practice Division – supervises all sorts of family law cases, including those that involve 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.
When parents decide to split up, they will rarely come to a custody agreement on their own. Usually, there are so many emotions involved that it can become hard to determine what kind of living situation is in the child's best interest. For parents who were married, and the marriage resulted in children, the court will ask if they have a custody agreement planned when they seek a divorce. If they do, the court will respect that decision and put it into action. The same goes for unmarried parents who are splitting but would like their pre-determined custody agreement entered into the court record. If the parents, whether unwed or married, cannot come up with this agreement, the court will intervene. In Union County, the judge will consider several factors to determine what is in the child's best interest. Neither parent has more of a right to the child than the other, so the court is merely looking at what makes the most sense for your family dynamic based on the facts presented. The court will consider the following:
- 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.
In New Jersey, there are two types of custody. Physical custody mandates where the child will live, while legal custody grants the parent the legal authority to make or influence decisions regarding the child's health, education, and welfare. When the court determines what is in the child's best interest, they will then continue to mold the child custody determination to your family precisely. 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 can be tough to develop a child custody agreement that makes both parents feel heard and respected, especially if the split is difficult. But with the right attorney negotiating on your behalf, the court is more likely to make a decision that is in everyone's best interest.
The law offers restraining orders in many types of cases, but most frequently, they are used in domestic violence cases, which the family court oversees in New Jersey. Here, there are two types of restraining orders – temporary and final restraining orders.
Temporary Restraining Orders
Like other states, law enforcement officials offer temporary restraining orders (TRO) to domestic violence victims. When the alleged victim reports the incident to law enforcement officials, they are given the option to file for a TRO against their aggressor. If they decide to follow through, the police will serve the defendant with the TRO and notify them of the hearing date. TROs usually last about ten days and are short in nature. The point is to prevent further harm from coming to the victim while waiting for the judge to decide on the domestic violence case.
Final Restraining Orders
Alternatively, final restraining orders (FRO) are permanent restraining orders that endeavor to prevent the victim and defendant from any further contact. But the judge will only decide a FRO is necessary if he finds that the defendant and victim were involved in a domestic relationship, and the defendant had committed a predicate act of domestic violence (i.e., assault or batter) on the victim. The belief is that the defendant's nature is somewhat volatile, and they may attempt further acts of domestic violence unless a FRO is in place.
Either way, restraining orders can have lifelong impacts. For instance, if a judge decides that a FRO is necessary, the defendant will be fingerprinted, photographed, and placed into a police database, a public record that anyone can review, thereby potentially harming the defendant's future reputation. This harm may inhibit where the defendant can live or work, as well as child custody and support determinations.
Family Court in Union County – MAP
In Union County, the family court is located in the Dissolution Assignment Office at 2 Cherry Street, 3rd Floor, Elizabeth, NJ 07202. You will want to double-check your notice beforehand to ensure you are headed to the correct courthouse. And remember to arrive early, so you have a chance to discuss the case and all possible outcomes with your attorney beforehand.
How a Skilled Family Law Attorney Can Help
Attending family court can feel overwhelming, but having an attorney working for your interests can help calm those fears. A skilled attorney will understand the ins and outs of family court cases and point out red flags before stepping into the courtroom. They will ensure you are fully aware of the possible outcomes, negotiate for the best possible outcome on your behalf, and mitigate any undue influence by the other side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm has helped countless families and individuals navigate the murky family court waters. Don't try to go at it alone. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. The Lento Law Firm can help.