Child Custody/Parenting Time Issues
Counsel from Proven Livingston Matrimonial & Family Law Attorneys
In New Jersey, the guiding principle behind every child custody determination is the "best interest of the child." Same has been described as “an expression of the court’s special responsibility to safeguard the interests of a child at the center of a custody dispute”. Kinsella v. Kinsella, 150 N.J. 276, 317 (1997).
In fulfilling this “special responsibility," the courts of New Jersey are vested with broad discretion to “make such order as to the care, custody, education and maintenance of the children... as the circumstances of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just." N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. In exercising this discretion, the courts are mandated to consider a number of statutory factors as set forth in N.J.S.A 9:2-4.
These factors include:
- The parents' ability to collaborate and communicate on parenting decisions
- The parents' desire for custody and willingness to allow parenting time (in the absence of substantiated abuse)
- The child's relationships with each parent and any siblings
- The history of domestic abuse, if any
- The safety of all parties in the household from physical abuse from one another
- The child's preference (if they are old enough)
- The child's needs
- The stability of the new proposed household
- The child's education and any foreseeable interruption to its continuity
- The overall fitness of each parent (will they have a substantial adverse effect on the child?)
- The locations of each parent's homes
- The time each parent spent with the kids prior to the divorce
- The professional responsibilities
- The number of children in the family and their ages
If you are concerned about arguing your child's best interests, our skilled Livingston matrimonial lawyers are ready to help you. Call us at (973) 878-4373 today.
Types of Custody
After considering these factors and placing its findings as to same on the record, the court may enter an order providing for a certain custody arrangement. The law now provides a gradient of different options for these arrangements and, in most cases, endeavors to give the child generous access to each parent.
Different custody arrangements in New Jersey include:
- Joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include: (1) provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child; and (2) provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare
- Sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent
- Any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child
See N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.
Third Party Custody
In some instances, where a child’s natural parents are determined to be grossly unfit to parent, the Court may award custody to a third party. See N.J.S.A. 9:2-9. However, “[w]hen a third party seeks custody as against a natural parent, the standard should be the termination standard of unfitness …the application of this standard is footed in the presumption in favor of the natural parent’s superior right to custody.” Zack v. Fiebert, 235 N.J. Super. 424, 432 (App. Div. 1989).
Parenting Time ("Visitation")
With respect to parenting time (sometimes referred to as “visitation”), the goal of the Court is always to facilitate and encourage the child(ren)’s relationship with both parents. While it is accordingly extremely rare for a parent to be denied parenting time altogether, in some instances, a Court may direct for supervised parenting time where it finds same would be in the best interests of the child(ren). In some circumstances, grandparents, older siblings, stepparents and even third parties may be granted parenting time, though a much higher standard is applied.
Safeguarding Your Role as a Parent
At Ziegler & Zemsky, LLC, our experienced team of Livingston matrimonial lawyers understand the nuances of child custody and parenting time and are prepared to advocate on our clients' behalf while remaining sensitive to their children's needs throughout the process.
Trust your child custody matters to experienced advocates ready to fight for your family. Contact us today to request a case evaluation.