New Jersey Child Custody
Child custody is often the hardest aspect of divorce for most people. The reality is that no matter how amicable a divorce, your child's life will change. In New Jersey, a strong emphasis is placed on finding a child custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child and where the parents are both extensively involved in their child's life.
In New Jersey, there are specific procedures to help resolve custody cases before they ever reach family court. Custody litigation is often very difficult and should be a last resort because it puts the power to decide the custody arrangements in the hands of the court. Child custody litigation is a lengthy and expensive process since the court will have to understand many aspects of the child's life in making the decision. Often, it is necessary to retain the services of a custody expert such as a psychologist for the purpose of evaluating the situation and administering psychological tests in the appropriate case. It is critical to work with an experienced family lawyer who is able to help you mitigate the situation and help resolve the child custody issues in a peaceful and timely manner before it gets to court.
Richard C. Klein, Esq, family law attorney and Chairman of Cooper Levenson's Family Law Practice Group, practices in the Cherry Hill area and other parts of New Jersey and works exclusively on family law cases including all aspects of divorce and child custody. The firm helps clients to negotiate child custody disputes and resolve the issues without necessarily resorting to a full custody trial. However, if your custody issue does become a matter for the courts, you want Attorney Richard C. Klein standing at your side. He has been practicing law for over 30 years and possesses the courtroom skills that go with that experience. He has helped countless couples work through the difficult aspects of divorce in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties and throughout all parts of New Jersey. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Richard C. Klein, Esq.
Types of Custody Arrangements
Title 9 of the New Jersey Statutes governs custody issues. When custody matters are decided, both physical custody and legal custody are at issue. The custody arrangements under New Jersey law are:
- Joint physical custody provides that your child lives with both you and the other parent, splitting her/his time between both homes in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child. When there is joint physical custody, both parents share the rights of making day-to-day decisions about your child and the responsibilities of caring for your child.
- Joint legal custody means that you share the right to make major decisions about your child with the other parent. With joint legal custody, both parents have a say in major issues regarding your child's health, education, religion and general welfare. Joint legal custody usually involves the parents talking with each other and making decisions jointly. However, the children generally spend the majority of the time with one parent with the other having negotiated parenting time.
- Sole physical custody means that your child lives with one parent full-time. A parent with sole physical custody is sometimes called a child's "primary caretaker" and is the person who has responsibility for the everyday care of your child and decisions that affect that care. A parent who does not have physical custody may be entitled to visitation, or "parenting time". This means that even though your child lives with one parent, your child still gets to spend time with the other parent, or the "secondary caretaker". If you have physical custody and the other parent has visitation rights, then this is not joint physical custody, even if the other parent has a large amount of visitation time. However, even if you are the primary caretaker, you may also share legal custody if but both parents have the right to make important decisions about your child.
- Sole Legal Custody authorizes one parent to make important decisions on behalf of the child. The other parent must be consulted, but the parent with sole legal custody has the final word. The courts do not typically grant sole legal custody unless there is a clear problem with one parent's ability to parent or unless the parties cannot work together for the best interests of their child.
The parties may agree upon, or the court may order, any custody and visitation arrangements determined to be in the best interest of the child. When creating custody agreements in New Jersey, it is presumed that children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents and parents are encouraged to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing after they divorce. Richard C. Klein, a reputable Cherry Hill family law attorney, will help you negotiate these important child custody issues so that the results are acceptable to you and, at the same time, in the best interest of your child.
"Best Interest of the Child"
The custody and visitation arrangements are largely based on the concept of "best interest of the child". This determination involves looking at many aspects of a child's life, including, but not limited to, the mental and physical health of the child, the historical involvement of the two parents, the physical and emotional environment, and educational opportunities.
The New Jersey Statute governing custody issues identifies specific factors for the courts to consider when awarding custody or confirming a custody arrangement negotiated between the parents. These factors include:
- the parents' ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
- the parents' willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
- the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
- the history of domestic violence, if any;
- the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
- the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
- the needs of the child;
- the stability of the home environment offered;
- the quality and continuity of the child's education;
- the fitness of the parents;
- the geographical proximity of the parents' homes;
- the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
- the parents' employment responsibilities; and
- the age and number of the children.
Even if you and your spouse believe you have "worked out" the custody issues on your own, proceeding without legal representation may not be appropriate. While the court will give deference to any custody arrangement that is agreed to by both parents, if the court finds that the arrangement is not in the best interest of child, it will not be confirmed and the court will order a custody arrangement that it determines to be more beneficial to the child. It is imperative that you have a competent Cherry Hill family law attorney at your side to voice your concerns and to advocate your rights.
Contact Richard C. Klein: A Cherry Hill Family Law Attorney at Cooper Levenson
Conveniently located in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Richard C. Klein has an established reputation as a premier family law and custody attorney throughout all South and central Jersey counties including Mercer, Hunterdon, Salem, Monmouth, Atlantic, Salem and Cape May counties. Call our offices today at 856-528-0822 or contact us online to discuss your custody issues with an experienced, knowledgeable Cherry Hill family law attorney.