Joseph A. Lombardo
The end of a marriage can lead to a difficult struggle when there are children involved. Straightforward divorce proceedings are often made more complicated by the introduction of a custody battle. Where custody of a child is concerned, most courts will end up hearing testimony from psychologists, guardians, and other character witnesses.
New Jersey courts will use the evidence presented at custody hearings to make determinations about where your child might live, who is responsible for paying for their well-being, and a number of other considerations of great personal value to you and your child.
There is no need to try to take on the system by yourself. With something as important as your child, you want the best possible counsel by your side. The experienced and respected child custody attorneys at Lombardo Law Group, LLC can work with you to make sure you and your child get what you need. Call us for a consultation at (609) 445-4300.
Custody Arrangements in New Jersey Family Court
You will have the opportunity to make your case directly to a New Jersey family court judge if you so choose. Under New Jersey law, a judge in family court has the ability to order custody arrangements in order to serve the “best interests” of the child or children involved. This gives the court a very broad mandate with which to make decisions.
New Jersey family courts will consider the following factors to determine the arrangement that is in the best interests of the child:
- Relationship between child/children, parents, and siblings
- Needs of the child
- Opinion of the child (if of an appropriate age to offer an informed opinion)
- Cooperation skills of the parents
- Stability of the home environment
- Location of the residences of each parent
- Employment obligations of each parent
- Age of the child
- Parental fitness (whether a parent has caused a “substantial adverse effect”)
- Time spent with children prior to separation
- History of domestic violence, physical or emotional abuse
- Safety of the child
The court is legally obligated to consider all evidence that is presented on each of the above elements. The criteria and an explanation of how the court must arrive at its decision is articulated in the state statute. New Jersey courts will not consider traditional gender roles or presumptions in their decision, providing both parents with equal footing before the merits of the specific case.
Custody arrangements ordered by a court may be appealed or amended over time due to changing circumstances. Such changes in circumstances are common. Children get older and their lives develop to match. It is only natural that what may have worked when the child was younger may no longer be applicable. Adjustments may be made to child support amounts, child care arrangements, and even physical and legal custody agreements.
Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody in New Jersey
New Jersey recognizes two forms of child custody: physical and legal custody. Physical custody pertains to the child’s actual location, or in other words, where the child sleeps and how often. Legal custody refers to the authority of the parent to make important decisions about the child’s well-being and education, amongst other key elements of childhood.
New Jersey family courts may give any amount of physical or legal custody to either or both parents, as they may see fit. However, the general preference of the courts is to arrange for both parents to have some real involvement and authority over the life of their child.
A joint custody arrangement allows for both parents to share legal custody and the authority that accompanies it. Major decisions such as choice of education and medical procedures can only be made after both parents have been notified and agree, except where a legitimate emergency dictates otherwise.
If you are involved in a custody battle and are offered terms for a settlement, you should have a full understanding of the reality to which you would be agreeing.
Mediation and Settlement Custody Agreements in New Jersey
Whenever divorce proceedings are commenced and there is a dispute over child custody, the court will often order that the couple engage with a court-appointed mediator in hopes of a mutual agreement on custody. Attorneys are not allowed to attend the initial mediation session, but that does not mean that we cannot assist you with preparation for your mediation appointment. Still, an agreement that is amenable to both parties without having to go through court can be the best option available.
Mediation is an opportunity for both parties to express their side of the story and illustrate their desires for the arrangement. The mediator does not make any binding decisions about custody. Instead, the mediator will offer some suggestions to each party based on the mediator’s perspective and experience.
If a tentative agreement is reached in mediation, the mediator will record the terms of the agreement and provide the parties and their attorneys with notes of the terms. Once the parties have had the chance to consult with their attorneys, they may formalize the agreement through the court. The agreement becomes a Consent Order once it is signed by the parents, attorneys (if the parents have representation), and the family court judge.
We Can Help You Win Your Custody Battle
Joseph Lombardo and the rest of the dedicated New Jersey custody attorneys at Lombardo Law Office have the experience you need to ensure a favorable result in your custody hearing. Call our offices today at (609) 445-4300.
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