By finally coming to a custody agreement, you’ve walked a delicate tightrope to balance the schedules and needs of everyone in your family. Perhaps you needed a court to intervene in your contentious relationship and settle everything. However, when circumstances change and something isn’t working, you might find yourself needing to change your parenting time arrangements.
If you cannot follow the established custody schedule, do not disrupt or ignore it as you please. Doing so would affect your standing with the NJ family court, who will not smile upon you for interfering with the plan. You and your spouse can consent to modifications together, tackling conflicts yourselves. However, lacking a court order, this kind of informal change would not be enforceable in the future.
Justifying changes to a parenting plan takes more steps if you’re relying on family courts to modify your child custody arrangements. You’ll need to file motions, return to court, and undergo additional hearings and evaluations. You must be able to prove that the best interests of the child have shifted in response to changing circumstances in your life or family dynamic.
Wondering what is a substantial and material change of circumstances? NJ family courts recognize several valid examples that could negatively affect your child:
Accusations of abuse
Child articulating reasonable change in preference contrary to existing parenting plans
Child entering school age
Custodial parent moving in with a new paramour or roommate
Grades dropping or failing attendance at school
Intoxication of the custodial parent
One parent fails to adhere to existing parenting time order
Relocation resulting in too much time and resources spent traveling between homes
Let us request a modification to your child custody order. The timelines and procedures of a custody court confuse parents regularly. Our experienced team of family law attorneys at the Law Office of Jef Henninger, Esq. provide fast, invaluable guidance for families. Give us a call any time at 1-855-9-JEFLAW to discuss how we can help your family win.
New Jersey parenting plans are designed to make life easier for the children involved. Child custody can be established by a judge if parents can’t agree, but it is always best if parents work together on the details. When parents agree on a child custody calendar, New Jersey family courts will honor their parenting plan unless it is not in the child’s best interest.
NJ S.A. 9:2-4(c) explains that courts have to consider several factors when deciding custody of a child in New Jersey, including (but not limited to):
Amount of quality time parents spent with child(ren) before and since separating
Continuity of quality education for the child(ren)
History of violence, danger, or conduct either affecting the safety of the child(ren) or parents, or having some other substantially detrimental effect
Number of children and their ages, preferences, needs, and best interests
Parents’ fitness, ability to coparent, and willingness to accept and allow custody
Parent’s work responsibilities
Relationships and interactions between parents, child(ren), and other family
Stability and locations of parents’ homes
Failure to adhere to child custody arrangements that you’ve agreed to can have serious repercussions for you in family court. Interfering with your ex’s parenting time accidentally or on purpose might lead a judge to reward you with sanctions and limited custody, or by holding you in contempt. Once in place, the family court generally won’t disturb a custody agreement unless a parent files a motion and provides clear proof of some substantial and material change of circumstances.
You need an experienced child custody attorney working with you from the beginning if you are going through a divorce, or struggling to figure out how to get custody of a child in New Jersey. Contact our efficient and intelligent family lawyers at the Law Offices of Jef Henninger by calling 1-855-9-JEFLAW. We are not pro bono child custody lawyers, but we’re available for you at any time, day or night, for a free initial consultation.
If a previous custody resolution process like an assessment or mediation yields no solution, the court may order a full child custody evaluation at the parents’ expense. Parents may agree to a single evaluator or each retain their own separately, and the court may also order a neutral evaluator.
It is important to your family’s happiness that you succeed in navigating custody with your child’s other parent.
Depending on the severity of the accusations against a parent, the level of acrimony between parents, and other factors, the truth can be difficult to see. If at any time the child’s safety or the parents’ truthfulness are in doubt, the court may appoint a specialized guardian to your child.
Law guardian: A barred NJ attorney, assigned by the court to directly represent, express the wishes, and protect the interests of a child exposed to abuse, neglect, or terminating parental rights. This is usually done in child and neglect cases such as those brought by DCPP.
Guardian ad litem (GAL): Investigates custody and visitation, and makes recommendations to the judge and the court that represent the child’s best interests. Appointed either by a parent’s request or a motion of the court in cases contesting custody, visitation, or parenting time. Unlike law guardians, GALs don’t directly represent the child, but serve the court.
Child custody evaluators are professional mental health experts like specialized psychiatrists, trained and qualified social workers, or psychologists who provide medical recommendations based on testing and interviews. Evaluators must conduct unbiased evaluations in the child’s best interest, and each has a slightly different methodology to evaluate custody eligibility or to determine an unfit parent.
When deciding custody, NJ family courts rely heavily on evaluator reports, made up of:
Up to three interviews with each parent and child
Observations of parent/child interactions
Interviews and/or statements from professionals/experts who interact with children
What is included in a NJ child custody evaluator report?
Relevant facts and family history
Custody arrangement recommendations
Suggested custody arrangement and parenting time schedule
If you are facing a custody evaluation, consider hiring a family law attorney. Fighting a custody battle is exhausting, but losing one is worse. Learn the most effective tactics to counteract a poor custody evaluation by working with the dedicated firm of lawyers at the Law Offices of Jef Henninger, Esq. Call us any time at 1-855-9-JEFLAW and we’ll take on your legal foes.
New Jersey Child Custody Dispute Resolution Process
A child custody dispute that parents or other interested family members cannot resolve land in front of a New Jersey family court judge, and may be sent to a custody and parenting time mediation program. In this resolution process, an impartial third party mediates the parents’ custody and parenting time disagreements, giving them the opportunity to develop a plan together.
We know the ins and outs of the courtroom.
When custody remains unsolved through a mutual parental agreement that prioritizes the child’s needs, the court may order an assessment or evaluation, which can be expensive. Before evaluations, assessments, hearings, or trials begin, secure a New Jersey family court lawyer. An aggressive lawyer can map out the proper battle plan to win the case. Walking in cold to see what happens without a lawyer later is not wise.
In an assessment or evaluation, an independent mental health expert or neutral parenting coordinator conducts a thorough reckoning of the needs of the children, and each parent’s ability to meet those needs.
Custody Neutral Assessment (CNA): identifies the issues preventing parents from agreeing to custodial terms. Encourages actions that could relieve pressures or address stressors causing disputes instead of producing a custody recommendation. Usually performed by a qualified social worker or psychologist.
Visitation Risk Assessment: looks for objective evidence of psychological problems or behavior patterns that could lead to inappropriate, harmful, or dangerous interactions between parent and child. Determines if evidence sufficiently justifies recommending supervised visitation.
Safety and Risk Assessment: determines the likelihood that a child will be mistreated in the immediate future by observing threats to the child’s safety in the family situation. Allegations of an unsafe environment and parental alienation commonly appear in these cases.
Preparing for a custody assessment, evaluation, hearing, or trial
Arrive early and dress neatly
Be open and answer honestly
Speak clearly and directly
Listen carefully and understand the questions before speaking
The law is complicated, and usually even the most experienced lawyers rely on another attorney to represent them. At the Law Offices of Jef Henninger, our team of family law pros know the ins and outs of the New Jersey legal system, so they can help keep your case together while avoiding common pitfalls. We’re after the best solutions for you and your family, so call us today at 1-855-9-JEFLAW. Begin with a free consultation, and we can guide you through a successful custody hearing or trial.
Custody and visitation share much in common, but have many differences. Parental rights distinguish someone with visitation from someone with custody, and the two terms cannot be interchanged. Don’t be confused by the overlapping legal definitions or individual types.
Protect the bond between you and your child.
On its own, the right to visitation does not include the right to make virtually any decisions, unless cleared with the custodial parent or affirmed by the family court. Even the place where the visit occurs can depend on the other parent or the court to confirm.
The definition of legal custody gives a parent the authority to make decisions that pertain to the child. Physical custody means the parent and the child live together. Joint custody means the parents both enjoy some percentage of physical or legal custody rights and responsibilities, and we define sole custody as a parent with the power to make all decisions unilaterally.
Thus, visitation and custody differ in several major ways. Child visitation, also called parenting time, describes the amount of time a parent spends with a child. A visitation schedule will outline the days, times, and frequency with which a parent will be physically present or direct contact with the child. Normally, a visit lasts much shorter than a period of custody.
Visitation covers any time the child spends with the noncustodial parent. It can occur during the day or overnight, at the home of either parent, and either alone or supervised. A parenting plan where one parent has sole custody—and even joint custody arrangements—can allow for visitation, but not necessarily. Sometimes, even joint custody arrangements make allowances for visitation. NJ family judges also may award visitation rights to family members or other people close to the child. Any successful visitation schedule depends on both parents understanding the subtle nuances of their parenting plan, calendars, and family dynamic.
The brilliant team of child visitation lawyers at the Law Offices of Jef Henninger, Esq. will fight for your family. We dominate NJ family courtrooms, and we can defeat any threats to your custody, visitation, or parenting time arrangements. Looking for the toughest custody and visitation attorneys in the Garden State? Call us at 1-855-9-JEFLAW now for a free consultation.
Courts distinguish marital faults from misconduct that indicates an unfit parent. In other words, proof of a horrible spouse does not automatically deem that spouse an unfit parent, and seeking custody doesn’t have to eliminate parenting time. Although no one is legally required to parent perfectly, the court can decide that the dangerously imperfect are unfit.
Only specific criteria will convince a New Jersey family court to declare a parent to be unfit.
A well-documented history of the other parent’s behavior—including photographs; audio/video recordings; medical files detailing injuries, criminal records, and prior arrests; treatment for addiction or mental health; diary entries; and direct correspondence—should be provided to the New Jersey family court at a custody hearing. Behaviors that characterise the unfit parent include:
Drug or alcohol use: trafficking in illegal substances, addiction to controlled substances, or altered mental capacity
Abuse: domestic abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, excessive discipline, or a history of violence
Severe medical condition or Mental illness: certified health issues
Incarceration: current and past convictions for [sexual] offenses
Neglect or abandonment: any situation lacking adequate food, clothing, education, or shelter (including safe conditions, personal space, heating, and plumbing)
Poor judgment: generally inadequate supervision, unhealthy environments, or exposure to dangerous individuals
The strength of your custody case may depend on whether your evidence reveals your biases and manipulations, rather than the other parent’s unfitness. Only concrete, convincing evidence will overpower the New Jersey family court’s tendency to preserve relationships between parent and child.
By the same token, while a parent’s confessed adultery may not impact a custody or parenting time award, excessively bad-mouthing the other parent, or exposing your new paramour too soon, may lead the court to side against you. Family courts try to insulate children from situations that could discolor their relationship with the other parent, especially within a short time from the separation or divorce.
Our diligent and tenacious child custody lawyers will step up to the plate and go to bat for you, putting together a visitation schedule that works for everyone in your family. Call our hotline: 1-855-9-JEFLAW for a free consultation about your New Jersey family law and child custody issues.
Unmarried parents routinely have the same custody, support, and visitation problems that married ones have. Establishing paternity is vital in nondissolution custody cases, when unmarried partners separate. New Jersey family courts make no assumption about a father’s identity when an unmarried woman gives birth.
Divorce lawyers in New Jersey also help parents who never signed a marriage certificate.
To a child, it does not matter whether the parents were married, and NJ family law operates from the perspective of the child’s best interest. As long as paternity is concrete, as in most conventional divorce proceedings, virtually nothing distinguishes married and unmarried couples in custody determinations—they have the same rights, responsibilities, and limitations.
Most custody battles are fought uphill in both directions, but unmarried parents might find their hills a little steeper, with a more winding path to the battlefield. Still, when unmarried parents separate and disagree by pursuing sole custody, filing motions to prevent their child from relocating, or requesting financial support, New Jersey nondissolution courts step in.
Sometimes even the most compatible parents can’t resolve their custody plan problems alone. A couple who separates their assets, ends their relationship, and disagrees over childcare needs the services of a solid family law and divorce attorney. You do not need to be a good partner to be a good parent. The demanding, informed counsel at the Offices of Jef Henninger, Esq. will protect your parental rights throughout the nondissolution process. Call our hotline for complimentary consultations, 1-855-9-JEFLAW.
In effect, there are nearly as many possible types of custody schedules as there are families. However, there are four main custody categories, types, or distinctions:
Keep your family together by choosing the custody arrangement that works best.
Sole Custody: Only one parent is responsible for caring and providing for the child. Visitation may be included, and sole custody usually describes both physical and legal custody.
Joint Custody: Both parents have responsibility for the child, either sharing or alternating physical and legal custody. NJ family courts generally prefer joint custody arrangements. Joint custody applies to either physical or legal custody, or both.
Physical Custody: The parent lives with the child, and takes responsibility for making daily decisions about meals, bedtime, clothing, etc. Physical custody may be sole or joint, although with visitation, the other parent wouldn’t necessarily make the day-to-day decisions affecting the child.
Legal Custody: The parent has authority over significant decisions in the child’s life, such as medical care, school selection, religious practice, and long-term plans. Legal custody may be sole or joint, but a physical custodian or parent with visitation rights wouldn’t necessarily have legal custody rights.
Of course, NJ family courts grant more varieties of custody than those above. Allow us to be your resource when figuring out your parenting plan. For capable advice and practical knowledge about navigating the subtle differences between full, alternating, primary or residential custodies, call the Law Offices of Jef Henninger, Esq. for skilled legal service from tough, smart, and aggressive child custody attorneys in NJ.
To request custody of your child, you need to file documents to petition the court and make your case before a family court judge. The process to file for custody of a child in New Jersey can vary between jurisdictions, and a judge could issue penalties or dismiss your case outright if any part is filed incorrectly. Make sure to fully understand how the law works in the county where your child lives.
Gather your supporting documents when filing for child custody in New Jersey.
Initiate the petitioning process by working with your attorney to create either a complaint for child custody or a motion for child custody, formal documents requesting or changing custody.
Document the full name, physical address, social security number, date of birth, and age of each child. Document your full name and address as plaintiff and the same information for the other parent as defendant, while noting parental relationships.
Describe the custody determination you desire, for example, joint custody. Because NJ distinguishes between legal and physical custody, specify your preferences or ask for both, where appropriate. Fully outline the parenting plan you want. If seeking to deprive the other parent of custodial rights through sole custody, include evidence proving him or her unfit.
Sign and date your completed complaint and any supporting documentation. Make two copies, and keep one for yourself.
File your original motion with the Superior Court (Chancery Division, Family Part) in the county where your child lives. Physically hand the paperwork to the court clerk or secretary, and pay a filing fee(s).
Serve the petition by providing the second copy to the child’s current custodian, likely the other parent. The complaint must be delivered by hand, but not by you or the court. You have a few options:
Send the sealed document via certified mail with a return receipt
Hire a process-server to deliver the sealed document
Enlist a sheriff to deliver the sealed document
Entrust a friend to deliver the sealed document
Keep the receipt—or have the courier sign a sworn statement declaring the date and time the pleading was successfully delivered—and file it with the court as proof of service.
Work with your attorney to prepare your evidence while awaiting the date of the hearing assigned by the court.
The real first step to filing in NJ family court is retaining a seasoned attorney who knows the law. Different municipalities or jurisdictions may have different requirements to apply for child custody, and our army of child custody lawyers knows how to fight custody battles. With a lawyer from the Law Offices of Jef Henninger, Esq. on your side, there is no reason to be daunted by formal legal proceedings. Call today at 1-855-9-JEFLAW for a free consultation regarding your child’s custody.