Livingston Child Custody Lawyer
Aggressive Custody Attorneys in Livingston, NJ
Do you need to fight for the best interests of your child? You don't need to fight alone. Get the support and legal expertise of seasoned Livingston child custody attorneys at Ziegler, Resnick & Epstein. Our team has more than 100 years of experience combined and is more than ready to take on your case.
Contact Ziegler, Resnick & Epstein for a private consultation with a custody lawyer. You can also call (973) 878-4373.
About Child Custody in New Jersey
The guiding principle behind every child custody determination in New Jersey is the "best interest of the child." Same has been described as “an expression of the court’s special responsibility to safeguard the interests of a child at the center of a custody dispute”. Kinsella v. Kinsella, 150 N.J. 276, 317 (1997).
In fulfilling this “special responsibility," the courts are vested with broad discretion to “make such order as to the care, custody, education, and maintenance of the children... as the circumstances of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just." N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. In exercising this discretion, the courts are mandated to consider a number of statutory factors as set forth in N.J.S.A 9:2-4.
These factors include:
- The parents' ability to collaborate and communicate on parenting decisions
- The parents' desire for custody and willingness to allow parenting time (in the absence of substantiated abuse)
- The child's relationships with each parent and any siblings
- The history of domestic abuse, if any
- The safety of all parties in the household from physical abuse from one another
- The child's preference (if they are old enough)
- The child's needs
- The stability of the newly proposed household
- The child's education and any foreseeable interruption to its continuity
- The overall fitness of each parent (will they have a substantial adverse effect on the child?)
- The locations of each parent's homes
- The time each parent spent with the kids prior to the divorce
- The professional responsibilities
- The number of children in the family and their ages
If you are concerned about your child's best interests, our skilled Livingston child custody lawyers are ready to help you. Call (973) 878-4373 today.
Types of Custody in New Jersey
After considering these factors and placing its findings as to same on the record, the court may enter an order providing for a certain custody arrangement. The law now provides a gradient of different options for these arrangements and, in most cases, endeavors to give the child generous access to each parent.
- Joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include: (1) provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child; and (2) provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare
- Sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent
- Any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child
See N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.
Enforcing & Modifying Child Custody in NJ
After child custody has been determined and ordered by the court, circumstances can change in a way that affects one party's ability to comply. In these cases, the custody order may need to be modified or enforced by the court.
If you have joint custody or visitation rights, but the other parent will not allow you to see your child, then you can ask the court to enforce your custody order. Failing to comply with a court order can lead to contempt proceedings, including penalties, which is why it is often effective for the court to enforce a custody order.
On the other hand, if your circumstances have changed in a way that makes it necessary to change the terms of your custody agreement or order, then you need to ask the court for a custody modification and provide proof that you have experienced a "significant change in circumstances." The court will then decide if your change in circumstances is enough to justify a modified custody order.
In some instances, where a child’s natural parents are determined to be grossly unfit to parent, the Court may award custody to a third party. See N.J.S.A. 9:2-9. However, “[w]hen a third party seeks custody as against a natural parent, the standard should be the termination standard of unfitness …the application of this standard is rooted in the presumption in favor of the natural parent’s superior right to custody.” Zack v. Fiebert, 235 N.J. Super. 424, 432 (App. Div. 1989).
Parenting Time Attorney in New Jersey
With respect to parenting time (sometimes referred to as “visitation”), the goal of the Court is always to facilitate and encourage the child(ren)’s relationship with both parents. While it is accordingly extremely rare for a parent to be denied parenting time altogether, in some instances, a Court may direct for supervised parenting time where it finds same would be in the best interests of the child(ren). In some circumstances, grandparents, older siblings, stepparents and even third parties may be granted parenting time, though a much higher standard is applied.
What Makes a Parent Unfit in New Jersey?
An unfit parent in New Jersey is one that causes harm to the child emotionally and/or physically. Characteristics of an unfit parent include:
- Grossly immoral and unable to be trusted to provide care and education for the child
- Unwilling or unable to provide the child with the necessary care, education, and protection
- Has careless or dissolute habits that put the child in danger
If you have additional questions about what makes a parent unfit for custody, do not hesitate to contact our firm for help.
Child Custody FAQs in New Jersey
Can I refuse visitation from my ex-spouse?
In short, no. Some people wonder if they can refuse visitation if the other parent has not paid child support. You do not have the right to refuse visitation to your ex-spouse if the court has granted it to him or her. Rather, if your ex-spouse has not paid court-ordered child support, then you should file a Petition for Contempt of Court.
Do grandparents have the right to custody or visitation?
Not inherently. Rather, it must be proved that grandparent custody or visitation is in the best interest of the child. So, in some circumstances the grandparent(s) might be granted custody or visitation rights.
What happens if we cannot agree on who gets custody?
If you cannot agree on a custody arrangement, then the case will be litigated in court and a judge will decide what is best for the child based on the evidence presented.
Is the mother favored when it comes to custody determinations?
According to the law in New Jersey, there should not be any favoritism between mother and father. However, New Jersey does recognize the “tender years doctrine”, which might give weight to the mother (when the parents are equally fit) if the child is in tender years.
Can I get child support payments if I have custody?
Perhaps. Child support orders will depend on which parent has primary custody and which parent has a higher income. If you have primary custody and earn a lower wage, then you will likely receive child support.
Safeguarding Your Role as a Parent in New Jersey
At Ziegler, Resnick & Epstein, our experienced team of Livingston child custody attorneys understand the nuances of child custody and parenting time and are prepared to advocate on our clients' behalf while remaining sensitive to their children's needs throughout the process.
- Child Custody and Child Support Jurisdiction
- Surrogacy Contracts
- Can my Divorce Really be "Collaborative"?
Trust your child custody matters to an experienced Livingston lawyer to fight for your family. Contact us to request a case evaluation.