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.