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Child’s Desires in a Child Custody Case in NJ

One of the most significant issues in many New Jersey divorce cases is that of child custody. There exist many misconceptions about child custody in NJ. One area in which misconceptions exist is in regard to a child’s desire in regard to child custody and parenting time.

When a Court Might Consider a Child’s Wishes in Regard to Custody

New Jersey does permit a judge to consider a child’s wishes when it comes to child custody and parenting time in a divorce, post-divorce, or paternity case. At the outset, it is important to know that considering a child’s wishes ultimately is at a judge’s discretion, within the parameters established by New Jersey law.

If a child is 12 years of age or old, and of an appropriate level of intellectual and emotional maturity, a court can consider that young person’s preferences when it comes to custody and parenting time. A court does not have to follow a child’s preferences. As was noted a moment ago, the ultimate decision regarding child custody and parenting time falls within the discretion of a judge.

Best Interests of a Child Standard

Even in a case in which a court considers a child’s wishes in regard to custody and parenting time, the best interests of a child is the overarching standard used by a judge. The best interests of a child standard requires a consideration of the specific facts and circumstances of a case. In other words, a New Jersey court doesn’t utilize a cookie-cutter approach to child custody decision, even when it is taking a child’s desires into consideration.

In addition to potentially considering a child’s desire when it comes to child custody in NJ, other factors a court may take into consideration include:

  • Which parent historically has been the primary caretaker of the child
  • Interaction of the child with parents and siblings
  • Stability of home environment or environments
  • Physical, mental, and emotional health of parents
  • Parents’ employment responsibilities
How a Court Discerns a Child’s Custody and Parenting Time Desires

Courts utilize a number of different processes or procedures to ascertain a child’s preferences in regard to child custody and parenting time. Some of these processes or procedures include:

  • Meeting with a child in chambers to ascertain a child’s custody and parenting time desires
  • Including ascertaining a child’s preferences as part of a custody evaluation
  • The appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem who will interview the child
Can a Parent Challenge a Child’s Custody and Parenting Time Desires?

A parent can challenge a child’s custody and parenting preferences. Indeed, this occurs with some regularity in divorce and post-divorce cases.

New Jersey courts prefer that parents and children not end up in truly adversarial positions in court. As a consequence, a judge may be inclined to recommend alternative despite resolution options if there is a conflict of this nature, including child custody mediation.

Can a Child Petition a New Jersey Court to Change Custody?

You may wonder whether or not a child can petition to alter an order in a child custody case in NJ. The simple answer to this question is “no.” Technically speaking, a child is not a party with legal standing in a divorce or post-divorce proceeding. In addition, a minor lacks the legal ability to take any kind of legal action on his or her own. An adult must “stand in” for a minor child when it comes to pursuing a court case of some type.

There are less commonplace situations in which a court might appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a child’s interests in a divorce or post-divorce case. If that occurs, a guardian ad litem acts on behalf of a child and might ultimate recommended to the court that some sort of alteration needs to be made to a custody or parenting time arrangement.

Legal Representation and Child Custody in NJ

If you are facing some type of issue involving child custody in NJ, you best protect your legal rights and interests by retaining the services of an experienced custody lawyer like a member of the legal team at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen. You can reach the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen by telephoning 201-845-7400. There is no charge for an initial consultation and case evaluation with a custody attorney from our firm.

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Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
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Peter is an exceptionally great attorney. He handled my child custody case and was able to ease any of my concerns with honest answers. He always took the time to explain the pros/cons and was always available to answer any questions that I had… I would highly recommend this attorney to anyone who is looking for one. Jessica Cruz
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Peter Van Aulen is a very compassionate, honest and straightforward person. He was there for me at my lowest point with a genuine concern not only for my situation, but for me and my child's well being above all… He is fair and he is strong and when push comes to shove he is there for you. Cathy Dodge
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*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances