New Jersey Child Custody: What if Neither Parent Wants Custody?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 16, 2022 | 0 Comments

Divorcing parents in New Jersey often fight tooth and nail for child custody when their child or children are minors. Typically, New Jersey courts will award one or both parents a combination of legal and physical custody. In making its determination, the court will weigh the best interest of the child. What happens, though, when neither parent wants custody of their child? A court is unlikely to force custody on the parents because it's hardly in the best interest of a child to be sent to live with a parent who doesn't want them.

Other Parties Who Can Seek Custody of a Child in Place of the Parents

There could be several reasons neither parent wants custody of their shared child or children. For example, both parents could be simultaneously experiencing financial or emotional hardships. Whatever the reason, the New Jersey courts provide a path to guardianship in situations where the biological parents are unable or unwilling to take custody of their minor children. Under NJ Statutes, 9:2-9, third parties, like grandparents or even family friends, have standing to pursue custody of a child even though they aren't the child's biological parent. The statute provides:

  • "It shall be lawful for any person interested in the welfare of such child to institute an action in the Superior Court"

These third parties will need to also prove a preexisting relationship with the child and/or that they are vested in the child's wellbeing, among other requirements. If no one is willing to seek custody of a minor child during or after a divorce, the court may appoint someone to act as guardian ad litem to represent the bests interests of the child. Subsequently, the child may enter foster care temporarily or until they reach the age of 18.

Termination of Parental Rights

When a parent refuses custody of their child, they can file for a termination of parental rights. This might happen if a grandparent or other person has been awarded sole custody of the child. Sometimes the termination of parental rights is the best course of action, but parents should be aware that it is a permanent step that generally leads to formal adoption by the person who has custody of the child.

When to Talk to a New Jersey Family Law Attorney

If you or someone you love is going through a difficult time and is unsure of the best course of action to take in a child custody issue, contact Joseph D. Lento and his experienced team at The Lento Law Firm. Mr. Lento will lead you through these difficult choices with compassion and insight, so you can do what's best for you and your family at the end of the day. To learn more, call 888-535-3686 or contact us online today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings! He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and protects their interests.


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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