Child Custody and Vistitation
New Jersey Child Custody Attorney With Your Child’s Best Interest at Heart
In a divorce, it is the two members of a married couple who chose to end the relationship. Any children, pets, family and mutual friends are caught in a situation that they were not necessarily prepared for, especially if they love both parties. When children are involved in a divorce, the situation can become especially sensitive and tense. Children will always cause an emotional response, which can complicate divorce proceedings and the future of the family. Regardless of circumstance, the reason for divorce, or the outcome of divorce proceedings, child custody and support are always handled with the best interest of the children in mind, as far as the court system is concerned. No matter what challenges you and your spouse may be facing, your children have the right to enjoy time with each of you, provided that they remain safe and cared for.
Custody is divided into two categories: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to participate in all major decisions regarding the care and safekeeping of their children, such as education, medical treatment, and religious choices. It is common for joint legal custody to be awarded so that both parents can share in these decisions, though in certain circumstances, legal custody may be awarded to one parent.
Physical custody refers to with whom the children will reside. Visitation can be a mutually agreed upon schedule for the children to spend time with each parent. In addition to a regular weekly parenting schedule, visitation plans include holidays, vacation time, and special occasions, which are to be negotiated between parents in the interest of retaining balance and fairness in the children’s lives.
Each custody arrangement is unique to its situation. There are several factors to be considered when deciding custody, including the nature of the parents’ relationship, the child’s relationship with each parent, previous domestic violence, the time that each parent can commit to caring for the children, the amount of time a parent spends at work and the age of the children. While decisions are initially rendered during the divorce process, custody issues can be revisited after separation in order to accommodate changes in circumstance for the parents or the children involved. In extreme cases, there may be legitimate reasons why a parent should not be involved in the lives of their children. Should you feel this way, or conversely, should your spouse feel this way about you, we can help negotiate a resolution.
Custody is an extremely sensitive issue, one best approached with the aid of an experienced attorney who can negotiate a well-rounded and safe plan, rather than leaving it to a judge to render a decision. And for those who are having trouble agreeing on a parenting time plan, we welcome the opportunity to enable creative alternatives.
Bart W. Lombardo, Esq — Your Child’s Advocate
As a divorce attorney with more than 20 years experience in family law, I have helped hundreds of families and their children find the best outcome. I will fiercely protect the rights of your child and your right to see your child. I will help you negotiate a fair and reasonable child custody and visitation, and child support agreement.
New Jersey Child Custody and Visitation
In the state of New Jersey, child custody and visitation matters fall under family court, and it’s mandatory that they’re addressed during a divorce that involves children. While the courts do not have to be involved — in fact, New Jersey courts highly encourage parents to make mutual arrangements without mediation — a plan will be assessed as part of a divorce hearing. Parents who disagree, or families where there are domestic violence issues, may be required to participate in mediation.
When the courts are involved, there are a number of things that will be taken into consideration when making a determination in the child’s best interest:
- The parents’ willingness and ability to agree and cooperate in parenting
- Willingness to accept custody ]
- Unwillingness to allow parenting time
- History of domestic violence — whether directed at the child or not
- The child’s interaction and relationship with parent
- The preference of children old enough to make intelligent decisions
- The child’s needs
- Ages and number of children
- Stability of each parent’s home — to include new family members/ step-parents
- Continuity of the child’s education
- Parental abilities of each parent — based on child custody evaluations
- Quality time spent with the child before and during the separation/ divorce
The courts will make these determinations based on child custody evaluations and family risk assessments. These may include interviews with families, schools, doctors, and psychological reviews. As discussed above, there are two types of custody, legal and physical. The determination of either is made as the following outcomes:
Physical Custody Arrangements
Shared Physical Custody
Shared physical custody is the ideal scenario for a child, in which they spend just about equal amount of time with each parent. While one parent may be the “parent of primary residence” and the other the “parent of alternate residence,” the child spends time with both parents. This living situation works best when both parents live relatively near each other and the child’s school, and can make parenting decisions together.
Sole Physical Custody
When a child resides with one parent most of the time and spends less than two nights a week, plus additional vacation and holidays, with the non-custodial parent, it is referred to as sole physical custody by the primary parent.
Visitation/ Parenting Time
Visitation, or what is referred to in New Jersey as “parenting time,” is the time the non-custodial parent spends with the child. Whether or not this is supervised or a part-time living situation, New Jersey state law emphasizes the importance of both parents’ roles in the child’s life.
Joint custody refers to an arrangement where both parents have equal physical custody and legal custody rights of the child and are able to make decisions about the child’s care. This type of arrangement is, unfortunately, rare due to the amount of cooperation it takes from both parents.
Legal Custody Arrangements
Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody is when both parents have the right to participate in making major decisions for a child. Specific decisions can be delegated to each parent or both parents can have equal decision-making rights. For instance, the educational and medical decisions can be left to the parent who has sole physical custody and all other decisions can be made jointly.
Sole Legal Custody
A parent who has sole legal custody of a child can make major decisions without consulting the other parent. This agreement is rare and typically only found when one parent is deemed unfit or is unavailable.
In heated divorces, it is not uncommon for one parent to question the abilities of the other or claim the other to be “unfit.” An unfit determination would limit the ability for that parent to obtain legal or physical custody, and their rights may be restricted to supervised parenting time. A court may declare a parent unfit if the parent has a history of violence, drug addiction or has (or poses a threat of) abused or neglected the child. In some cases this may result in terminating parental rights of the unfit parents.
If you are going through a divorce and children are involved, it is always in your best interest to hire an experienced family law attorney who is well-versed in child custody litigation. Bart W. Lombardo, Esq. has your child’s best interest in the forefront and will fight for your child’s rights and your rights to parent your child. Contact Bart W. Lombardo Attorney at Law today!
What to Look For in a Child Custody Attorney
The Separation of two parents of a child is difficult, no matter the circumstances. When it is your child that is at stake jealousy, bitterness, and selfishness often comes from a place of great love for the child but can lead to a very difficult, frustrating custody battle. It is important to remember that the bottom line is what is in the best interest of the child, no matter what that means. It is for this reason that many couples hire child custody attorneys to help them understand the law and have a third party to view the case with unbiased eyes. When it comes time to find a child custody lawyer to represent you and your case, make sure to do your research and look for a few telltale signs that will ensure you are investing in the right one.
Your Child’s Best Interest
Be leery of an attorney who claims “I will fight to win sole custody of your children for you” and is willing to burn your ex at the stake to do so. This is not in the best interest of your child unless the other parent is unfit, which is generally not the case. A good child custody lawyer will fight your case the way you want to gain access to your money. A great child custody attorney will review your family’s case and help you negotiate the best terms for your child. Since it is ultimately your child’s best interest you have at heart, find a child custody attorney who shares the same goal.
Family Law Experience
When it comes to negotiating child custody cases, the experience is important! The world of family and divorce law is one that can take years to master because each case is as unique as the family caught in it. When you find a child custody lawyer who has decades of experience in your jurisdiction, the chances of a positive outcome are dramatically increased. It is okay to ask how many years experience a lawyer has in family law and child custody cases, and it is okay to ask about case numbers and outcomes. Keep in mind that experience as a paralegal, junior attorney, and other roles are applicable and give the attorney experience.
Weigh the complexity of your case with the experience of the child custody lawyer or law firm. If your case is more complex, for instance, it crosses state lines, there are multiple children involved, or you have a child with special needs, make sure you find a child support attorney who can handle your case.
The Child Custody Lawyer’s Reputation
Always do a little background research into the attorney’s reputation. This can be done via word of mouth, by friends or family that have experience, and client testimonials and reviews. If the attorney has a reputation for having a weak court presence and taking deals, you may not end up getting the best outcome. However, conversely, if the lawyer is known for being cutthroat and headstrong, you may end up in a bigger battle than you intended when your ex feels the need to put up all of the defenses and the case becomes about winning rather than the best outcome for your child and family. Look for a reliable lawyer who has a reputation for upholding the law and aggressively negotiating best outcomes. It is okay to ask for references and an interview — the attorney will likely want to conduct a consultation to review your case anyway.
An Attorney Who Meets Your Needs
Find a family lawyer who meets your needs. If they are not, it is okay to fire them and hire another one — using these tips!
For a local divorce attorney with more than 20 years experience in family and divorce law, contact Bart W. Lombardo, Esq.
When You Should Hire a Child Custody Attorney
While we highly recommend hiring a child custody lawyer for any child custody case, we also understand that this is not always possible or affordable. However, there are a few circumstances when having legal counsel to represent is not a luxury that will make your life easier, but a necessity that will change the outcome of your case. Here are a few examples of when hiring a child custody lawyer should not cause a second thought.
The Other Parent Has Already Hired One
In the event that the other parent has already hired a child custody attorney means that they are armed and ready for battle. They are taking the case seriously and are coming at you with everything they have got. To ensure that their lawyer doesn’t negotiate you out of custody and visitation, hire a child custody lawyer right away. Even if the relationship is amicable and you (mostly) agree, the one with legal representation will be heard louder in court. When it comes to your children, this is no time to spare.
You Are Attending Court Mandated Classes
Regardless of what classes the courts have ordered you to attend — anger management, alcohol and drug, parenting — you should quickly seek the counsel of an experienced child custody lawyer. The other parent can easily try to use your required attendance in these classes against you in an attempt to limit or restrict custody or visitation of your children. To help prevent any court-mandated class which could affect your relationship with your kids, hire an attorney who understands the importance of both parents in a child’s life and will fight for your legal rights.
Your Case Is Complex
If your case is complex in any way, it is a good idea to have legal representation. In child custody cases, anything other than mutually agreeable shared physical and legal custody may be considered complex. Circumstances that complicate cases include custody cases that cross state lines, new step-parents that the other parent disagrees with, multiple children of varying ages, special needs, living situations, income and job requirements, and what the ground for divorce were, if there were any. In complex custody cases, matters are not black and white and navigating the legal system can get overwhelming. Hire an experienced child custody lawyer to navigate the complexities for you.
The Other Parent is Attempting to Prevent You From Having Custody
Do not fight this battle alone. If the other parent is dead-set on you not having custody or having less parental rights than you believe you should, it means they are going to use every tactic to help their case. You will need a good legal defense to fight it, even if the grounds they attempt to use are ludicrous. Having an experienced child custody lawyer on your side will ensure that you have a fair shot at legal retaliation and having a better outcome.
Ideally, you would have experienced legal representation regardless of your child custody hearing circumstances. If you do decide to forego a lawyer and fight the legal battle yourself, you can change your mind when the time comes. If you are ready to arm yourself with experienced legal counsel, trust Bart W. Lombardo Attorney at Law. He had more than 20 years experience in family law and is committed to fighting for the best outcome for your children and family.