Child Custody in NJ
Morris County Child Custody Attorneys
Protecting your relationship with your children while putting their well-being first
Child custody arrangements are often one of the main concerns our clients have.
Children grow quickly. Often, both parents want to be present for big moments and day-to-day experiences. Reaching an agreement on child custody and parenting time can be a solution that works for everyone, including the children.
“We believe that in most situations, balancing the best interests of the children and the needs of the parents allows for creativity in reaching custody and parenting time plans.”
With decades of combined child custody and parenting time experience among our attorneys, we at Jacobs Berger, LLC have the knowledge and familiarity with the court system to help you spend time with your children.
Planning Child Custody Schedules
Worried about getting enough time with your children?
A well-crafted parenting time and visitation plan can lay the groundwork for a positive experience for divorced co-parents as they navigate the unexpected while trying to preserve consistent, quality time with their children.
We’re here for you when things change—from meeting new significant others to accommodating shifts in holiday traditions according to the NJ child custody holiday schedule.
As child custody attorneys, we focus on creating a flexible and future-minded parenting time and visitation agreements in New Jersey—and aim to avoid unnecessary, stressful, and contentious litigation. While we’re always prepared to aggressively defend your rights through court litigation, we aim first to find solutions through negotiation, mediation, and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
The goal: to make the process as easy and cost-effective as possible.
There’s no one size fits all approach
It’s important to understand that in Morris County and the rest of New Jersey, courts tend to prefer joint legal custody and shared parenting agreements, where a 50/50 split is possible. This approach is grounded in the belief that children benefit from having a relationship with both their parents.
It’s equally important to understand that no family fits perfectly into a pre-existing mold. Child custody and parenting time agreements don’t need to be set in stone—everyone benefits when both sides are flexible when unique situations arise or when circumstances change.
When one parent becomes the primary custodial parent, a plan for visitation time with the other parent will still need to be drawn up—often with the guidance of child custody attorneys. Since the courts operate on the belief that the involvement of both parents is in the child’s best interest, expect parenting time rights to be granted in almost every case.
Get your time with your children protected. Contact our experienced attorneys today.
New Jersey Child Custody Modifications
While the aim of any well-considered parenting time agreement is to be prepared for future changes, circumstances can change unpredictably or substantially enough that the child custody agreement needs to be modified.
The child custody attorneys at our law firm can help you pursue an appropriate modification to the existing court order or agreement, including if:
- A parent wishes to relocate:
- In-state, including within northern New Jersey (but this could just be classified as a move depending on certain factors)
- With or without children
- A child’s school performance decreases or significant medical care is needed
- The needs or preferences of the child change
Wondering if you qualify for a modification? Schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced attorneys.
Enforcement of New Jersey Child Custody & Visitation (Parenting Time) Agreements
Emotions can run high during divorce, especially when children are involved. This can lead to breakdowns of communication and child custody agreements not being followed. In these situations, enforcement of child custody agreements may be needed.
New Jersey courts expect agreements to be followed, but they normally look for more than just your word. This means that if you choose to legally accuse a former spouse or your co-parent(s) of violating your parenting time agreement, you’ll need to present hard evidence supporting your claims, not vague accusations.
Because of the importance of presenting a sound, evidence-based argument as to how your rights have been affected, we highly recommend that you speak with our experienced child custody attorneys before taking action in court.
We can help you gain a clearer understanding of your legal rights and options moving forward—as well as potentially resolving the dispute with your co-parent before taking the matter to court.
Relocation With Children
Life is unpredictable, and the individual shifts associated with divorce may mean that in the years following the process—or even during it—one parent wishes to relocate with children.
If you’re the other parent, that could be the last thing you want.
That kind of move may require a significant change of a custodial arrangement, including parenting time and visitation schedules.
Because New Jersey courts believe that it’s in the child’s best interest to have relationships with both parents, changes like moving will often need court approval.
Without such approval, it’s not legal for you or your co-parent to relocate.
Dealing with a potential relocation
Whether you’re the one who wishes to relocate or not, it’s critical to talk to an experienced child custody attorney. Relocation can have a big impact on time spent with children. Beyond that, it can also affect child support and financial issues related to the children.
The process involves many legal forms, court-ordered evaluations, and assessments—for parents.
While these steps exist to ensure that any child custody agreements or modifications are in the best interest of the children, they can be confusing and time-consuming to a parent trying to navigate the process without legal advice.
For in-state relocations, the laws aren’t as specific. Often, what’s most important is whether or not the proposed move is within the same general area—and whether or not it causes strain on the lives of the children and their ability to continue to participate in existing child custody and parenting time agreements.
If the in-state relocation is far enough away that it will disrupt current custody and visitation agreements, then court approval will likely be needed. In this situation, the court will usually use a “best interest analysis” (information below) to decide if modifying an existing custody agreement is in the child’s best interest.
If a parent wishes to relocate out-of-state with children, then the process is known as “removal,” and court approval will be required.
What it takes to get approval for a move
The parent who wishes to move must show that it’s in the best interest of the children. The court will want to see this before granting permission.
The court’s best interest analysis includes, but isn’t limited to:
- The child’s physical health and safety
- The child’s emotional needs, including the child’s preferences about who to live with, activities, education, leisure, and support of the child’s special talents or needs
- The co-parents’ cooperation and communication and how this will affect the child’s relationship with both parents
- Practical considerations, such as parents’ work schedules or how hard it is to travel between parental homes
Temporary Custody During Your Divorce
Negotiating matters including child support and custody is an important part of the divorce process—and concluding this process takes time.
During that time, one parent may move out of the marital home or there may be disputes between parents about the child’s care. After all, divorce can involve difficult and charged communication.
While creating a well-considered parenting time agreement is a critical part of divorce mediation or litigation for parents, it can also be important to have a temporary custody plan during the divorce process itself.
Either parent may ask the courts to perform an analysis and issue an order to address temporary child custody during the divorce. It doesn’t matter which parent requests the temporary custody determination—the court won’t favor that parent over the other.
As with any divorce or custody matter, especially one involving court hearings, it’s highly recommended that you retain the counsel of an experienced child custody attorney. The guidance of a family law attorney can help you secure resolutions that meet the unique needs and concerns of you and your child.
In making a decision, the court will consider among other factors:
- Who has been the primary caregiver
- Both parents’ financial and emotional statuses
- How each parent can provide for the special needs, interests, and talents of the child
- Preferences of the children, if they’re mature or old enough
While the outcome of a temporary custody determination isn’t the final custody arrangement, it can be a good indication of what it will be. The result of the temporary arrangement can be a good indication of how the court will decide on final custody if the parents aren’t coming to that agreement through mediation.
Child Custody Evaluations
The state of New Jersey determines what living arrangement, including joint custody or visitation, is in a child’s best interest through a child custody evaluation.
During this process, a mental health professional:
- Interviews the child and parents separately
- Observes the child with each parent
- Reviews court documents
- Talks with other adults who are important in the child’s life, such as educators, doctors, or caregivers
- Conducts psychological tests if necessary
The purpose of this evaluation is to determine what is best for the child in terms of health, safety, home life stability, and emotional and attachment needs.
While child custody evaluations can understandably be stressful for any parent, New Jersey courts hold that a child’s best interest typically includes having a relationship with each parent.
As such, the courts prefer to grant joint legal custody when possible.
While the evaluation carries a lot of weight in informing the court’s decision, it’s not the same as a decision.
Many parents understand that the child’s relationship to each parent exists outside of their parent’s relationship—even during a divorce or separation.
During this emotionally difficult time, especially as decisions are being made about child custody, parents may temporarily forget this.
There are instances in which parents can attempt to align the child or children against the other parent in a process known as parental alienation.
While a parent may not realize the harm they’re doing, sabotaging a child’s relationship with the other parent hurts the well-being of the child—particularly when the child is already experiencing upheaval because of divorce.
Courts are particularly sensitive to matters involving parental alienation, and if found to exist, the parent who is demonstrating that behavior may not fare as well in the Court’s final determination on custody and parenting time.
Because parental alienation can have a long-term negative impact on a parent-child relationship that worsens with time, our child custody attorneys approach each case with creative and dynamic legal solutions to find the best outcome for each family.
Get help from our experienced family law attorneys today!
At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our Morris County child custody attorneys have extensive experience drafting, modifying, and enforcing child custody and parenting time agreements of all kinds throughout the state of New Jersey.
We seek to protect the stability of your relationship with your child—and guide you through the process while minimizing stress for all parties as much as is possible.
Schedule a 15-minute call with a team member or schedule a forward-thinking strategic planning session with one of our attorneys.
Our solution-oriented child custody attorneys can help you plan for time with your child.