Factors Used by the Court in Determining Custody
Child Custody cases are some the most difficult cases for a Court to decide. They are often very emotional and hostile. Child custody laws in NJ require courts to determine what is in the best interest of the child. The child custody statute in New Jersey states the following factors which the Courts must consider in in determining what is in the best interest of the child:
- The parents’ capacities to be able cooperate, communicate and agree about issues in regard to the child.
- The parents’ readiness to accept custody and any history of refusal to allow the other party to have parenting time not based on corroborated abuse.
- The dealings and relationship between the parent, child and siblings.
- The history of Domestic Violence.
- The safety of the parent and the safety of the child from any abuse by the other parent.
- The child’s preference when they are of appropriate capability and age to form an intelligent choice.
- The needs of the child.
- The stability of each party’s home environment.
- The quality and continuity of child’s education.
- Each parents fitness.
- How close each parent lives from each other.
- The quality of time each parent spent with the child before separation.
- Each parent’s employment responsibilities.
- The number and age of children.
The parents themselves can come to an agreement in regard to custody and parenting time. Courts encourage the parties to come to their own agreement. Custody agreements will be respected by the courts as long as they are not inconsistent with the best interest of the children.If The Parties Cannot Come To An Agreement
If the parties cannot come to an agreement then the Court will decide the issue at a trial using the above said factors. A Custody Trial is expensive and emotionally draining for everyone involved. The Courts believe that it is in the best interests of the children and the parties to come to an agreement. The parties will be ordered in most cases to participate in custody and visitation mediation before a trial to facilitate a settlement. Many cases are settled at this mediation. If the case is not settled at mediation than the parties will be ordered to submit a parenting plan which states each parties proposed arrangement for custody and parenting time. The Court can choose either party’s plan or create their own. Also, a custody parenting time evaluation may be performed before trial. The evaluation is conducted by psychologist and they will produce a report. The evaluator will interview each party and depending on the age the child. Further, the evaluator may interview other relevant individuals, request psychological, medical and school records. Said report usually has a large impact on the Court’s award of custody. The parties can agree on a joint expert or each party could hire their own expert. Custody evaluations are expensive. In some counties in New Jersey if the parties cannot afford a private evaluation the Judge could order a “best interest evaluation by the county probation department. In Bergen County the Court gives the parties a chose to have a private evaluation or have Bergen County Family Services conduct an evaluation which the parties our charged on a sliding scale depending on their incomes. Given the fact that the welfare of your child is the most important thing to you, it is advisable that you consult with an experienced New Jersey family law attorney. Peter Van Aulen offers a free initial consultation and will discuss how the child custody laws in NJ will impact on your situation.. Please call today at (201) 845-7400.