New Jersey judges who handle child custody cases must consider the best interests of the children involved prior to making custody awards. One would think the children's parents would also be primarily concerned with making decisions that are in the best interest of their kids, but unfortunately, emotions and contempt for the other parent often trumps all other sensibilities when dealing with divorces and separations.
Custody lawyers in Camden County and elsewhere in New Jersey know that while all situations will differ, a judge typically starts by assuming that the kids in question will benefit from maintaining constant and frequent contact with both parents and having both of them share in child raising responsibilities. Ultimately, what is important to the court is a child's emotional and physical wellbeing.
What is Considered?
State law gives judges some guidance with respect to the factors they should take into account when deciding what is in a child's best interest. One concern of utmost importance is the child's health and physical safety. In this regard, judges ensure to closely examine whether or not a parent poses a threat or risk of causing physical violence or any other type of harm to the child or other parent.
If there is a history of domestic violence, the judge will certainly take that into consideration and if necessary, the court may order visitation and/or custody be either suspended or supervised. Parents should be aware, though, that unless the objecting parent can demonstrate the other parent's abusive nature toward a child, the judge will likely find it in the child's best interest to have him or her share time with both parents.
Another consideration is the child's emotional needs. A judge will look at the overall environment of each parent's household, as well as how the child interacts with both parents. Additionally, if there are other children in the household, the court will consider the relationship of the siblings with the child in an effort to keep them all together. Depending on the child's age and maturity, the judge might allow the child to state his or her preference with respect to custody.
Practicality and Parenting Plans
Attorneys who deal with custody issues are aware that judges must also make practical considerations when looking at what is in a child's best interest. For instance, a judge will look at where the parents' residences are located in relation to the child's school, as well as both parents' job situations and their level of responsibility at work.
With regard to parenting plans, the law does not favor one particular arrangement over another. Joint custody is common, but it is not unusual for a judge to find it best for a child to have a primary home base in conjunction with a parenting plan that designates certain times to be spent with the other parent. Custody lawyers have found that parents who have left the lines of communication open and remain flexible typically have the best chance of being able to work effectively within a joint physical custody parenting plan that equates to 50/50 shared time.
Child custody issues can be tricky to deal with, even when parents can communicate effectively with each other. If you have questions about your custody case, call Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP at (856) 795-3300 or use our online contact form.