Child Custody, removal, and relocation is perhaps the most sensitive and impactful of all legal matters. That’s why you’ve got to make sure your legal team is the trusted authority to aggressively protect the rights of you and your children.
If you have children and are getting divorced or ending a civil union or domestic partnership, custody will be one of the most important – and potentially most contentious – aspects of your separation. At Romanowski Law Offices, we provide knowledgeable and experienced representation for child custody disputes in New Jersey. The Staff and Attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices are prepared to work for you and your family’s protection. Call for your expert consultation to help guide you through this complex process. (732) 242-4564
Determining NJ Child Custody – What Family Law Judges look for
In custody disputes, the New Jersey courts focus on one concern: the best interests of the child. The parents will first be required to mediate their dispute in order to try to reach a mutually acceptable parenting plan. If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to court for decision by a judge. In either case, the “best interests” factors will be the driving force behind establishing the parents’ respective rights to custody and visitation. Custody and visitation arrangements are based on certain factors, including:
- Parents’ ability to agree, communicate & cooperate in child-related matters
- Parents’ willingness to accept custody & any history of unwillingness to allow visitation not based on substantiated abuse
- Interactions & relationship of the child with its parents & siblings
- History of domestic violence, if any
- Preference of child, when of sufficient age & capacity to reason, so as to form an intelligent decision
- Needs of child
- Safety of child & safety of either parent from physical abuse by other parent
- Stability of home environment offered by each parent
- Quality and continuity of child’s education
- Fitness of parents
- Geographic proximity of parents’ homes
- Extent & quality of time spent with a child prior to & subsequent to separation
- Parents’ employment responsibilities
- Number & ages of children
Before entering into a custody dispute, it is important to familiarize yourself with how custody works in New Jersey. The family law attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices can help you understand your options, take steps to improve your chances of obtaining your desired custody rights, and then pursue those rights in mediation and at trial.
Certain “Informal” Factors Influence Custody Determinations
Another significant factor is a court’s interest in identifying one parent who is most likely to put personal differences aside to unselfishly do right by his or her children. Any parent who demonstrates sincere action-based commitment to rise above existing contentions in order to affect amicable resolution of conflicts has an advantage, both within & without the court system. A second important criterion focuses on determining which parent is better suited to encourage & foster an appropriate relationship between child or children & the other parent. Read more about how child custody is determined in New Jersey.
Custody Modification, Relocation, and Removal
If your divorce or separation is over and you are seeking to modify an existing custody order, you will need to be able to demonstrate that changed circumstances warrant the modification. Courts in modification cases apply the same “best interests” standard that applies to initial custody determinations. Thus, if circumstances have not changed, in the eyes of the court there would be no reason to disrupt the child’s present situation. Our attorneys have helped numerous parents successfully file and oppose motions for custody modifications.
If you live in New Jersey and are seeking to move out of state with your child, this requires a different analysis. When one parent has primary custody and the other parent objects to the removal or relocation, courts take a “hybrid” approach to resolving parental disputes. Read more about child relocation and removal.
Types of Child Custody
In New Jersey, there are two types of child custody: legal and residential. Depending on the best interests of the child, both types of custody can be granted to a single parent (“sole” custody) or the court may decide that the parents should share certain custody rights (“shared” custody).
Legal Custody in New Jersey
“Legal custody” refers to the right to make important, non-routine life decisions for your children. For example:
- While choosing what to serve a child for dinner on any given day is a routine decision, the decision that a child will be raised in a religion where certain dietary laws and restrictions must be observed would be considered non-routine.
- Deciding to take a child to the movies would be considered routine. However, deciding what maturity level the child should be exposed to may be non-routine.
- Deciding to get your child a haircut is generally routine. However, allowing a child to color, tint, or radically cut his or her hair might be non-routine.
- Allowing a child to wear an innocuous press-on “tattoo” would typically be considered routine. However, permitting a child to have a piercing done is not.
- Deciding whether to drop your child off at school or let him or her take the bus may be considered routine. However, determining where your child will go to school is not.
Overall, legal custody involves atypical decision-making about a child’s health, education, and welfare. In all but extreme cases, joint legal custody is preferred according to New Jersey precedent.
Joint Legal Custody
If parents share joint legal custody, they must make these non-routine decisions together. As a result, underlying any joint legal custody award is a presumption that the parents will be able to come to terms in making important life decisions for their children. If one parent makes such a decision without consulting the other, the non-included parent can file a motion for relief in court. For example, if one parent signs a child up for football when the other parent is opposed to the physical risks involved, the opposed parent can file a motion to prevent the child from participating and to caution the other parent against making additional one-sided non-routine decisions in the future.
If child abuse figures into the equation, e.g., sole legal custody may be awarded to the non-abusive parent. In sole custody situations, the parent without legal custody must respect the custodial parent’s decisions, and must seek the custodial parent’s consent prior to undertaking any non-routine activities with the child. In the event of a disagreement, either parent can seek relief by filing a motion with the court.
Residential Custody in New Jersey
Residential custody (also known as “physical” custody) refers to the right to provide the primary home environment for your child. In most cases, residential custody is either “sole” or “shared”:
- Sole Residential Custody – With sole residential custody, the custodial parent lives with the child more than five days per week, excluding vacation arrangements. The non-custodial parent may have parenting time with the child for less than two overnight equivalents in the average week.
- Shared Residential Custody – With shared residential custody, neither parent lives with the child more than five days per week. The parent who has the children for the majority of the average week is known as the “parent of primary residence” (PPR), while the parent having the children for less than half of the time is called the “parent of alternate residence” (PAR).
- Split Custody – There is also a third, though far less common, form of residential custody. With “split custody,” each parent as sole residential custody of one or more of the couple’s children. While the New Jersey courts will typically find that it is in children’s best interests to live with their siblings, in some cases, living separately may outweigh the benefits of living together.
In any case, the court may also award child support to a custodial parent.
Factors that Affect Child Custody Expenses
Child custody can be a problem, before the divorce is even finalized. Once you may be living separately from your ex, or even when you continue to cohabit, some type of arrangement will need to be made as to when children will spend time with you and when they’ll spend time with the other parental figure in their life.
According to New Jersey, child custody MAY determine child support as well as non-child support expenses. So, not only is this custody arrangement important to the children, but it’s also going to matter greatly as to how child support payments will be determined.
Things like the following need to be worked out:
- With whom will your children live?
- Where will your children live (will the main custody holder be required to live within a certain parameter of the other)?
- How many days, weeks, months, or years will be spent with either parent?
What Should Parents Consider When Establishing and/or Planning Child Custody?
Be sure to bring up every concern and think far into the future when negotiating child custody. Discuss the following with your ex-spouse:
- Will anyone be moving out of state or out of the area?
- Throw some ideas back and forth as far as dividing up summers, holidays, weekends, etc.
- What are each of your education and religious upbringing expectations?
- Be sure to go over availability and schedules for each of you.
Remember, a little give-and-take will make for better DECISION-MAKING, and you’ll stand a better chance of keeping things out of the courts.
How to Win Positive Results in NJ Child Custody Disputes
If you are divorced or facing a pending divorce, and children are involved, child custody is going to be something that must be determined. At Romanowski Law Offices, we are prepared to fight for your rights and the rights of your children. where child custody, alimony, child support, and more are concerned. During trying times like these, you need someone on your side who is compassionate yet tough in their representation. You can count on us. We’ve got your back.
At Romanowski Law Offices, our professional staff is equipped with the experience, knowledge and training it takes to win positive results in New Jersey child custody and parenting disputes. Attorney Curtis J. Romanowski has never lost a custody dispute. His unique professional background and experience includes training in psychology, personality typology and neurolinguistic programming, as well as considerable experience teaching lawyers and mental health professionals.
Contact us to speak with a Child Custody Attorney at Romanowski Law Offices Today.