Mercer County, New Jersey, is home to Trenton, the state's capital, and also to Princeton University. There are more than 370,000 residents within the limits of the county. If you are one of these residents and facing a child custody dispute or a restraining order hearing, you may feel unprepared for and concerned about the high stakes. Family is important, and nothing is more important than your loved ones, so it's best to find an expert who can support you during this challenging time.
What Does Family Court in Mercer County Handle?
The Family Practice Division in Mercer County, also known as the family court, handles all cases that pertain to family law. Regular cases might include custody arrangements, abuse and neglect, adoption, domestic violence, or juvenile delinquency, among other things. Some lawyers focus on specific areas of family law, and Attorney Joseph D. Lento is one of them. He works within all areas of family law and concentrates on restraining order hearings and child custody determinations, and has extensive experience helping individuals navigate complex legal proceedings.
What are Restraining Orders?
A restraining order is a protective legal document that a judge (or after business hours, law enforcement officers) issues in order to delineate limits on how an individual can interact with another person. There are usually two named individuals in the document. Often, they are put in place in an attempt to protect the person from alleged domestic abuse or violence. If you are trying to acquire a restraining order, or have recently received one, you want to speak with an attorney. Restraining orders are serious and come with grave consequences, especially if a judge issues a final restraining order.
In New Jersey, there are two types of restraining orders—temporary restraining orders (TRO) and final restraining orders (FRO).
Temporary Restraining Order
Temporary restraining orders (TROs) are issued as a response to a domestic violence allegation in a preventative manner. When a TRO is issued, a hearing date usually accompanies it.
Final Restraining Order
Final restraining orders (FROs) are much more serious than TROs. They are permanent, and in New Jersey, if you receive an FRO, you will be photographed and entered into a database.
If the named individuals in the restraining order reconcile, it's critical that they not communicate and still respect the parameters of the restraining order if it is in place. The reason? They need to either wait for the restraining order to expire (for a TRO) or take the appropriate legal steps to ensure that the court dissolves the FRO. Violations of an FRO are a very serious matter.
Child Custody Determination
When a couple separates or dissolves a marriage in Mercer County, the first step is mediation to see if they can come to an equitable agreement. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. In those instances, the child custody determination will go to the courts. The judge at the family court hearing will want to make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child. In New Jersey, whether you are the father or mother, you have a right to equal consideration for custody of your child.
There are different formulations for custody (or parenting time) arrangements, and there are two main types of custody that the courts will consider. The first, physical custody, decides where the child will reside. The second, legal custody, is specifically who will get to have a say in questions about the child's wellbeing. These might be questions related to health, education, or other similar concerns.
What Are Some Questions a Judge Might Consider in Their Decision?
Many factors influence what a judge decides as far as custody of your child. The determination generally focuses on what will be the best option for the child. Here are some potential questions the judge might look at:
- Where will the child receive the best quality education? What is most consistent for the child's schooling?
- If the child is old enough and can form an educated and unbiased opinion, what do they prefer?
- What does the child need? Are there any special needs or accommodations? Any emotional needs?
- Can the parents communicate, cooperate, and agree with each other when they have to make a decision about the child?
- How much quality time did the parent and child spend together prior to (or after) the separation?
- What are the relationships between the child and the parents? The child and their siblings?
- Is there a history of domestic violence with either parent?
Where Will You Go for Your Family Court Hearing?
Regardless of where you live in Mercer County, your hearing regarding Family Law will be held in the Family Division at the Mercer County Courthouse in Trenton, NJ. The building is located at 175 South Broad Street, Trenton, NJ 08650. Most civil proceedings will take place on the second floor of the building.
It's important to not confuse this building with the Municipal Court, which is located on N Clinton Avenue and handles cases specific to Trenton City. Double-check with your attorney or your summons to make sure that you're driving to the correct courthouse. When you plan out your day, leave time to park and meet with your attorney prior to the hearing. You'll feel much calmer and prepared if you touch base and review the strategy your attorney's planned.
How an Expert Family Court Attorney Can Help
Involving a family court attorney from the beginning of the process is a wise approach. Even if you don't have a court date, a knowledgeable attorney can assist you with planning an approach that takes into account the best strategy to achieve the outcome you're hoping for. Family matters above all else, and it helps to have someone fighting on your side during this overwhelming time. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm care passionately about working tirelessly to assist each and every one of his clients to obtain the best possible outcome. He and the Lento Law Firm have helped thousands of clients over the years. Call him at 888.535.3686 or reach out online to set up a consultation today.