In divorce, separation, and other family law matters, the custody and visitation rights for minor children are major elements the courts, parents, and lawyers must consider. The goal is to work for the child’s best interests and agree on a positive custody and parenting arrangement. When both parents have frequent and continuing access to the child, it is believed that the child’s best interests are achieved, unless one or both parents would negatively affect a child’s healthy development, as in domestic violence or drug-related cases.
Custody of a child can be defined as joint or sole custody. Joint custody is shared custody by both parties. Sole custody is awarded to one parent. Sole custody may or may not give access to the other parent, depending on the circumstances. The level of positive communication between parents will be a major factor in how the court will allocate physical and decision-making custody if joint custody is determined. Each case is different.
The court will consider many factors in the context of custody, including the age of the child. They may consider how appropriate it would be for the child to remain with the primary caregiver, older children’s preferences and desires, and the health and special needs of a child. An attorney may be appointed for the child in a contested case to ensure the child’s best interest. The courts will examine the history of support by both parents. The history of support includes the physical, emotional, and financial care of the child as well as the emotional and physical health of the parents.
In New Jersey, Family Court Mediation is a preferred method of determining custody and visitation. A third party, called a mediator, will assist parents and in some cases, other family members in reaching an agreement in relation to custody and parenting time disputes. This allows all parties involved the opportunity to make positive decisions in the best interests of the child. You may find yourself involved with the program if the court judge determines your case is better served through a mediator and issues a court order, if a complaint for custody is screened and found appropriate for mediation, or if the case leads to a custody and parenting time investigation, is screened and approved. When parents actively participate in the decision-making process, the outcome is usually more positive. Mediation is also usually a cheaper alternative than a contested court case and cost nothing to the parents if accepted into the program.
The mediator will examine and consider the needs of the family. The mediator, the parents, and the process are child-focused and required a mutual respect between parties. The parents must respect each other’s concerns and the role they play in the children’s lives. In a joint custody case, the goal is to agree on how decisions will be made in regards to all issues that will impact the child’s development, including education, activities, religious instruction or participation, and health and medical treatment. Also, mediation will help determine if joint physical custody is an option, depending on where the parents live or if a parent has the right to move with the child. Though there are more things to consider and examine, everyone’s goal must be the best interest of the child. With convenient locations in Cherry Hill and New Brunswick, New Jersey, we are strategically situated to serve clients across the state. Speak with an attorney at Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C. in order to receive the best outcome for your legal matter.