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What to do following the death of the Custodial Parent

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Morristown Custody Lawyers Assist After the Death of Custodial Parent

when custodial parent dies jacobs berger child custodyChild custody is a legal matter that begins at divorce or separation and is an on-going concern during the life of both parents or until the child is emancipated.

When a custodial parent dies, the non-custodial parent and surviving family often worry about who will get custody of the child. Those who want to minimize conflict and help facilitate the child´s transition, as well as reduce potential trauma related to the grieving process, should consult their lawyer about the proper procedures to follow. Especially if they need to formally obtain child custody.

When both parents have been actively co-parenting and a custody order exists, this is usually not an issue, as the basic assumption is that the surviving biological parent gains custody. According to New Jersey State Law 9:2-5, unless there is a family law court order naming the surviving parent as the intended primary-carer, parental custody by the other parent isn’t automatic.

Sometimes there is another person in the child’s life who believes that he or she has been more involved in the daily upbringing or is better suited to be the custodial parent, than the living biological parent. This situation often arises when a third party such as a grandparent or “psychological parent” feels they have been instrumental in the overall care, and that the non-custodial parent is unfit or will cut off contact between the third-party and the child.

Jacobs Berger LLC has extensive experience helping families in Morris County towns including Madison, Morristown, Randolph, Dover, Denville, Rockaway, Florham Park, and all of Northern New Jersey. Our attorneys help our clients and their families rebuild their lives with a solid foundation for the future and have been making a positive difference in our clients’ lives for years. We have built our approach to family law on recognizing the many challenging concerns our clients face and offering effective and constructive guidance and resolutions.

Contact our firm today for a confidential case assessment, to discuss your unique needs and concerns regarding child custody arrangments.

Deciding Custody after the Death of Custodial Parent

As with all custody cases, decisions are made with the intention of being in the best interests of the child.

New Jersey State Law 9:2-5, states that “the Superior Court shall have the right, in an action brought by a guardian ad litem on behalf of the children, to appoint such friend or other suitable person, guardian of such minor children, and shall have the right to remove such guardian, and to appoint a new guardian or guardians, and to make such judgments and orders, from time to time, as the circumstances of the case and the benefit of the children shall require.”

The challenging question of who should receive custody is usually addressed by selecting among the possible people willing and most appropriate to serve as a guardian:

  • Non-custodial parent, if paternity has been acknowledged
  • Step-parent
  • Same-sex partner
  • Grandparents
  • Other relatives, such as siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins
  • Family friends such as godparents or neighbors
  • The state (e.g., foster care)

Hanover Child Custody Attorneys Discuss Exceptional Circumstances

As in Watkins v. Nelson, if a third-party petitioner is a “psychological parent” and can make “a showing of gross misconduct, unfitness, neglect, or ‘exceptional circumstances’ affecting the welfare of the child,” a grandparent, aunt, uncle, same-sex partner, step-parent, or sibling, may overcome the presumption that the non-custodial parent should be awarded custody.

Contact Our Morristown Child Custody Modification Attorneys Today

Whether you are pursuing a child custody modification, or need to file or contest a child custody modification motion in the courts, the attorneys of Jacobs Berger are ready to provide you with effective, constructive, and attentive legal representation.

With extensive experience resolving child custody matters of all kinds for families across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area, our firm is prepared to provide you with the legal service and guidance you need throughout the child custody modification process. We view every case we take as an opportunity to provide our clients with a blueprint for their family’s future.

To speak with our firm today in a confidential case assessment regarding your child custody modification needs or other family law concerns, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.

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.