We at Villani Deluca understand that going through a separation is a tough process. As the parent of your child, apart from your own needs, you must also resolve issues relating to your child’s future. With so many family law firms out there, getting legal counsel well-versed in family law is important. This is why our New Jersey-based law firm has a robust family law team, comprised of some of the most experienced family law attorneys and child custody lawyers in New Jersey, to help you get through the custody litigation process.

In this article, we will talk about the different processes available to decide custody disputes, the different types of child custody, and other things to look out for in a New Jersey child custody case.

Negotiation or Mediation Process

The common things to look out for regarding child custody include:

  • Child support
  • Parenting time
  • Visitation schedule

A good way to settle these custody issues is through negotiation or mediation. These alternative dispute resolution methods are a simple means to resolve a custody dispute amicably. They can be taken up before the case goes to court, or even after the case has gone to court.

Negotiation is when you and the other parent will discuss what they want with each other. Essentially, the divorcing couple is making a bargain, hoping to reach a compromise. This can be done by the parents themselves, or in the presence of their respective New Jersey child custody lawyers. You are able to discuss matters relating to custody or parenting time with the other parent and talk things out.

Mediation is when both parents undergo the same discussion in the presence of a mediator, who will attempt to keep the discussion on track and make suggestions to resolve child custody conflicts. In New Jersey, the court may order parents to attend mandatory mediation. The mediators for court ordered mediation are often experienced in mediating cases involving child custody disputes, although they are not allowed to provide any legal opinion.

During mediation, it is more likely that the issues of creating a parenting plan, child support and other issues relating to a child custody agreement can be worked out with less conflict. Compared to a lengthy and drawn-out custody battle, negotiation and mediation processes are cheaper and quicker. Most importantly, these processes are built on the spirit of cooperation and being non-confrontational. You are less likely to entirely ruin your relationship with the other parent if you can avoid litigation.

Regardless, there are situations where negotiation and mediation are not suitable, such as when one parent has issues of substance abuse or physical abuse. In such cases, or if other processes have come to a dead-end, going to court should be the last resort.

Our child custody lawyers will advise you as to the options available, so you can take the best possible next step.

Litigation Process

If a custody battle happens, our experienced child custody attorneys will be available to advocate for your desired child custody arrangements. It is important to understand that the New Jersey court will place its focus on which custody arrangement will be in the child’s best interests. This takes into account a range of factors set out in New Jersey law and affirmed by the Supreme Court, including but not limited to:

  • Parents’ agreement to cooperate in matters relating to the child’s life;
  • Parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history where a parent refuses to allow parenting time;
  • The child’s relationship with parents and siblings;
  • The history of domestic violence, if any;
  • The child’s safety and the safety of one parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
  • The child’s wishes, if he or she is of sufficient age to make an intelligent decision;
  • The child’s needs;
  • The stability of where the child resides;
  • The quality and continuity of the child’s education;
  • The fitness of the parents, i.e. a parent’s conduct;
  • The extent and quality of time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;

Our child custody lawyers will carefully analyze the above factors and advocate for you accordingly.

If you are the father of your child, you can be assured that the New Jersey child custody law treats both parents equally. While the common perception is otherwise, a child custody case is not always immediately favorable to the mother. Again, New Jersey courts will make their decisions based on the child’s best interests.

Every single child custody attorney in our firm will make the appropriate arguments on your behalf based on the above factors, so you can receive the right custody arrangement you want and an arrangement that is in the best interests of your child.

Physical Custody and Legal Custody

Physical custody refers to receiving residential custody, where you will be the one the child lives with the majority of the time. In child custody agreements, the parent housing the child is the custodial parent, while the parent not housing the child is the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent is generally entitled to scheduled visitation as part of the visitation agreement.

In a rare custody case, the new jersey court may decide on a split custody arrangement. Split custody may occur in situations where the parents have more than one child. The court may decide that one parent and the other parent will both be custodial parents, and they will each take care of a different child.

Legal custody refers to receiving the authority to make decisions involving your child’s best interests, including health and education. Having joint legal custody or sole custody will have a large bearing on your child’s life, as the child’s welfare depends on the decisions made.

While there may be occasions where sole physical custody of the child is granted, New Jersey child custody cases often result in joint legal custody. This type of arrangement gives both parents an equal say in the parenting plan of their child. This is especially so when there is a minor child involved, typically joint custody, where both parents have a say, is considered more suitable to further the child’s best interests.

Our child custody attorneys will advocate for the parental rights you want, whether you prefer having joint custody or sole custody, and legal custody rights or physical custody rights.

Issues arising from custody orders and further modifications

Even after the court has made a decision regarding child custody, there may be disagreements in the process of carrying out custody arrangements. One parent may disagree with a decision made by the other parent. The custodial parent may make a choice that the noncustodial parent strongly objects to. As time passes, the needs and wants of the child will change and may warrant changes to the custody arrangement.

The New Jersey court may make modifications accordingly to the legal custody, physical custody, sole custody or joint custody arrangement. If both parents can reach an agreement, the court will allow it. If a disagreement arises, the litigation process will begin again. However, any changes made regarding existing child custody will still focus on the best interests of the child.

There may be situations where the custodial parent intends to move to another state. The parent wishing to relocate should get in touch with a child custody lawyer, as New Jersey laws have restrictions on such a move. A relocation will reduce or entirely deny the parenting time of the noncustodial parent. New Jersey law may deem such a proposed move not to be in the best interests of the child. The court will allow it if both parents can come to an agreement.

There may also be unfortunate instances where a parent is failing to carry out the agreed child custody arrangements. A parent with physical custody may be wrongfully denying parenting time to the other. One parent with joint legal custody may also be making decisions without consulting the other, such as making plans for the child’s education by himself. An enforcement order will be needed from the court to settle these child custody issues and, to ensure the child’s best interests are met.

Our family law attorneys will seek enforcement or modifications for these arrangements from the New Jersey court.

Discuss your situation with an experienced New Jersey child custody lawyer today

Are you in the process of seeking professional legal counsel regarding child custody issues? Have other law firms failed to answer your questions? Our law firm offers a free consultation, and you are welcome to speak to our New Jersey child custody lawyers today. We promise to provide sound support for parents like you, and our New Jersey child custody lawyers pride themselves on maintaining a close lawyer-client relationship. Contact us today to speak to an experienced attorney now.