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New Jersey Appellate case giving rise to a new precedent in domestic violence law

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Custody arrangement and parenting time agreement allow the child to be integrated into both households following a divorce.

Children’s Rights in Divorce and Domestic Violence Protections Attorneys Morristown NJNew Jersey law is set up to protect the state’s citizens in all of their life experiences. Judicial law is especially protective of children’s best interests, holding them as the central factor in determining child custody in the case of divorce; additionally, New Jersey law is conscientiously written to protect New Jersey citizens from domestic violence. Recently, these two legal areas – children’s rights in a divorce and domestic violence protections – overlapped in a New Jersey Appellate case, giving rise to a new precedent in domestic violence law.

Children are highly impressionable, and their parents’ divorce has the potential to upend important consistency in their physical and emotional life. Because of this fragility in a child’s socioemotional development, New Jersey child custody law is set up to provide the children of divorce as much access to both parents following the divorce as is safe and in the child’s best interest. This often means that the custody arrangement and parenting time agreement allows the child to be integrated into both households following a divorce.

Custody Arrangements and Shared Households

According to New Jersey law, custody is either physical or legal. Physical custody refers to where the child lives, and often, this includes integration into two households. Legal custody refers to the rights that one or both parents have to decide regarding the child, such as medical, educational, and religious decisions.

The custody arrangements divorcing New Jersey couples with children decide among are the following:

Sole Legal and Physical Custody

As this sounds, in this arrangement, one parent has nearly all, if not all, rights to decision-making and time with the children. If the other parent is granted visitation rights, they are often supervised. In this case, children are members of only one household, that of the custodial parent. This arrangement is often sought by a parent who fears for the child’s best interests because of the other parent’s history, including drug use, domestic violence, or repeated legal issues.

Joint Physical and Legal Custody

Joint Physical and Legal CustodyThis is the flip side of the sole custody coin. In this arrangement, both parents equally share physical and legal custody, and children are generally integrated into both post-divorce households. How the child’s time is spent with each parent depends on the parenting time agreement that the ex-spouses have developed. These arrangements often depend on the parents’ locations, the children’s ages, and the professional realities that each parent faces.

Joint Legal Custody 

While joint legal custody is not as evenly spread as an arrangement as joint physical and legal custody, both parents do have a say in the children’s medical, educational, and religious upbringing. In this arrangement, the children live with one parent, the ‘custodial’ parent; and they spend time with the other parent according to the developed parenting time agreement. In this scenario, children are often integrated into two households, though their integration into the non-custodial parent household is less prevalent.

Households As It Relates To Domestic Violence

According to the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, domestic violence victims have ensured “the maximum protection from abuse the law can provide.” One of the named victims of domestic violence according to the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act is “any person who is 18 years or older…who has been subjected to domestic violence by…any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member.” (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19)

Contact Our Morristown Child Custody and Divorce Attorneys TodayThe definition of a “household member” under the Act was recently reviewed and clarified in an appellate case in which a woman accused her half-brother of threats and assault, both of which are considered domestic violence offenses. However, the half-brother argued that the woman did not have the right to bring charges against him under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act because they were not part of a fully blended family living together full-time and only spent weekends and some holidays together. Upon review, the court determined that, because the Superior Court will attempt to act in the child’s best interest in a custody hearing by integrating them as safely possible into both post-divorce households, they must be protected and responsible as full members of each household in all cases of domestic violence. As such, the half-sister was permitted to seek a Final Restraining Order against the half-brother and press domestic violence charges.

Contact Our Morristown Child Custody and Divorce Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our experienced team of attorneys is committed to serving our clients across Randolph, Morristown, East Hanover, Rockaway, Madison, Dover, Denville, Morris County, and throughout New Jersey in all matters of domestic violence.

Contact us online or through our Morristown offices by calling (973) 710-4366 today for a strategic planning session regarding your child support, divorce, and family law-related issues.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.