Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody
Child custody is one of the most emotionally challenging and legally complex issues a parent faces. Click the links below for answers to some frequently asked questions regarding custody:
- What factors does the court consider when determining custody?
- If I am not and have never been married to my co-parent, does that affect my ability to seek custody or parenting time?
- If my co-parent isn’t paying child support, can I deny parenting time?
- If I have a boyfriend or girlfriend, will I lose custody?
N.J.S.A. 9:-2-4 states: In making an award of custody, the court shall consider but not be limited to the following factors:
- the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child
- the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse
- the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings
- the history of domestic violence, if any
- the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision
- the needs of the child
- the stability of the home environment offered
- the quality and continuity of the child’s education
- the fitness of the parents
- the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes
- the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation
- the parents’ employment responsibilities
- and the ages and number of the children
A parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parent’s conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child.
While the statutory factors form the foundation of the court’s consideration of custody, these factors are broad and may have many subparts or intricacies further defined by case precedent and/or the specifics of your individual matter.
If I am not and have never been married to my co-parent, does that affect my ability to seek custody or parenting time?
Marriage is not a prerequisite to having custody of or parenting time with a child. The process in the court system for unmarried parents differs procedurally from that for divorcing or divorced parents, but the standard of law remains the same. Please see the factors of N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 cited above.
An award of custody or the exercising of parenting time is not dependent upon the amount or timely payment of child support. A child has a fundamental right to establish and maintain a relationship with both parents, regardless of finances. If your co-parent is not paying support as ordered, you have the right to file an application with the court to compel payments. Nonetheless, the court will not endorse self-help — taking actions without court order, such as getting illicit bank account access or refusing parenting time — of any parent with regard to custody or child support.
Generally, the mere existence of a significant other will not impact custody. However, depending upon the effect of your relationship with the significant other upon the child, there may be certain precautions, restrictions and/or modification to your custody and parenting time arrangement.
Contact Jacobs Berger, LLC, to work with a child custody lawyer in New Jersey
Jacobs Berger, LLC, is a legal practice devoted to litigation and mediation focusing on families. Reach out to our Morristown law office online or call 973-710-4366 to schedule a meeting with one of our lawyers. We are conveniently located at 16 Washington Street, Suite 201, Morristown, NJ 07960. Meetings can, upon consultation and agreement, be arranged at alternate locations.