Monmouth County Child Custody Lawyer
Family Lawyers Working to Create Legal Lasting Solutions For Families in Red Bank, NJ
At the Law Office of Steven P. Monaghan, LLC, we understand that child custody tends to be among the most emotional and heated of family law issues. Our child custody lawyers in Monmouth County, NJ come to these issues with extensive knowledge of the law and unique insight into the process.
Founder Steven P. Monaghan is not only a lawyer, but also a guardian ad litem appointed by New Jersey family courts to assist judges in making custody determinations that are in children's best interests. This experience plays a critical role in how we handle cases.
- Types of Child Custody
- How Legal Custody is Determined
- Physical Custody Explained
- Shared Physical Custody Explained
- How Custody is Determined For Unmarried Parents
- Custody of Special Needs Children
Do I Really Need A Lawyer For Child Custody?
If you are uncertain about your child custody case or nervous speaking in a high-pressure courtroom, then you need an attorney who is going to be your greatest choice for winning the custody arrangement you desire.
Taking On Challenging Custody Matters
One of the hardest things for parents to come to grips with in a custody case is the fact that they will not be able to spend as much time with their children. As a result, child custody cases can become highly contested. At our family law firm, we have worked with parents who are facing tough custody disputes. Whether we resolve your dispute through litigation, mediation, collaborative law or negotiations, we will be on your side each step of the way.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a Monmouth County child custody attorney from the Law Office of Steven P. Monaghan, LLC. We serve Red Bank and the surrounding areas.
Types of Child Custody in New Jersey
There can be a great deal of flexibility in child custody arrangements. With over 60 years of combined experience, we can find ways to pursue custody and parenting time/visitation arrangements that make sense for you, using negotiation and other means whenever possible. If the issue is contested, the court will obtain the assistance of mental health professionals to perform custody evaluations and make recommendations as to what kind of custody arrangement would be in the best interest of the child. We know how to guide you through these evaluations.
In terms of child custody arrangements in NJ, one of the most important distinctions to make is between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent having the right and responsibility to make the important decisions regarding his or her child's health, education and general welfare. Physical custody involves the day-to-day care of the child and where the child resides. These types of custody can be divided in various ways, but always in the best interest of the child. That is the standard of custody arrangements in New Jersey.
How Is Legal Custody Determined in NJ?
One major area that will be addressed in the divorce is legal custody. Having legal custody of your children means you are legally allowed to have a say in the important issues in their lives, issues such as education, religion, health and general welfare, for example.
There are two types of legal custody in New Jersey. They are:
- Joint legal custody: Both parents have the legal right to make decisions in the major areas of a child's life and both will have access to medical and educational records on their child.
- Sole legal custody: Only one parent has that legal right.
The court generally awards joint legal custody to each parent, as in most cases it is considered to be in the child's best interests to have both parents participate in the child's upbringing.
Sole legal custody happens in those rare instances where having only one parent making the important decisions is in the child's best interest, as having the noncustodial parent involved would not be best for the child.
As legal custody is an extremely important area to address, the findings of the custody evaluator will play a significant role in deciding this issue.
What is Physical Custody in NJ?
The decision where and with whom your child will live the majority of the time, after your divorce, ideally will be made by both parents and sanctioned by the court, determined in the child's best interest. Usually it is one of the parents and that person is the custodial parent.
The court also recognizes the need for the noncustodial parent (also referred to as the "parent of secondary or alternative residence) to have time with the child, unless there are major issues (like a history of domestic abuse) that would make such a decision contrary to the child's best interest.
In making a determination of physical (and legal) custody, a New Jersey court will consider several factors established in law. They include:
- Both parents cooperation when deciding on issues for their children
- The willingness or unwillingness in the past to accept custody arrangements
- The relationship of the parents to their children
- If there has been domestic violence in the past
- The child's preference, if they are old enough
- The child's needs
- The stability of each parents' home
- Educational needs of the child
- Health concerns regarding each parent
- The proximity of each home to each other
- The quality of time spent with both parents
- Each parent's other obligations and responsibilities
No matter how the divorcing parents feel about each other, deciding who has physical custody of the child should always be made in the child's best interest.
What is Shared Physical Custody in NJ
When it comes to determining the physical custody of a child, New Jersey law does allow for both parents to have shared physical custody.
Also known as joint physical custody, shared physical custody may be determined by the court in the best interest of a child if:
- Established relationship: The child has an established relationship with both parents.
- Sources of love and security: In the child's view, both parents provide this.
- Fit for parenting: Both parents are physically and psychologically capable of fulfilling the role of parent.
- Each parent shows potential to cooperate: In matters of child rearing and this does not necessarily mean both parents have an amicable relationship, just that they can put their differences aside when parenting.
(These factors became a part of New Jersey case law in the decision Beck v. Beck.*)
Because joint physical custody necessarily places additional financial burdens on the family, the court also looks at the practical considerations, such as the financial status of the parents, the demands of parental employment, the proximity of their respective homes, and the age and number of the children.
The time spent with each parent will not necessarily be equal. New Jersey laws on joint physical custody and parenting time also require each parent to have the children live in the home for at least 105 days out of the year, in order to qualify for shared custody.
How Is Custody Determined If Parents Are Not Married?
In New Jersey, the custody rights of a parent are the same regardless of whether or not the parents are married. In determining who is awarded custody, in the event the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own, the court will review and weigh 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 age and number of the children.
It is important to first establish paternal rights, if necessary. Paternity can be established either by both parties agreeing and identifying the father, with him accepting the role and responsibility as father of the child, or alternatively, if there is a dispute, by a DNA test.
Unmarried parents also have the same rights to seek child support as divorced parents do. Child support is for the benefit of the child, and is contingent upon numerous factors, however the marriage of parents is not one of those factors.
What is in the best interest of the child always prevails, regardless of whether the child's parents are married or not.
Custody Of Special Needs Children
There are many nuances in a divorce or family law case involving a child or children with special needs. Those with autism, Down Syndrome, and other special physical or mental needs require different considerations, and their families may have different financial concerns. These must be taken into account when deciding both legal and physical custody and well as in a visitation agreement.
Physical Custody in Special Needs Cases
When parents of a special needs child cannot reach a decision on where that child will live, the court will look at what is in the child’s best interest to make their decision. The court will take any special circumstances into account when making their decision, including the child’s preferences, if they are old enough and capable of expressing their wishes.
Other issues taken into consideration include, but are not limited to:
- Which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver
- If there is a stronger bond with one parent
- The suggestions of doctors, therapists, teachers, or other professionals in the child’s life
- Each parent’s daily and weekly schedules
- Each parent’s ability to provide the special support the child needs
Determining Parenting Time
In many cases, shared visitation, or parenting time, is preferable for the child’s best interests. However, this can also be disruptive for a child with special needs. Children diagnosed on the autism spectrum, for example, many have difficulty with transitioning from one home to the other, which can impede their mental development. In these cases, it may be more beneficial to create a structured routine for visitation based on the child’s best interests.
Custodial parents of children with special needs often have a larger financial burden to account for increased medical bills, therapy, accessibility equipment, tuition, and more. This is in addition to everyday needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
Our experienced Monmouth County custody attorneys can help custodial parents negotiate a support schedule that both provides for the child’s needs and provides the parent with the monetary help they need. This can include negotiating for a larger support amount or extending the amount of time the non-custodial parent is required to pay.
Contact Us for a Free Initial Consultation
If you are concerned about whether or not a parent is fit to have custody of your child, it is important to speak with our experienced Monmouth County family law attorney. Our lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and options and can represent you in court in Monmouth County, NJ.
Call our Monmouth County custody attorneys today at (732) 624-6343 for diligent, dedicated legal representation in Red Bank and the surrounding areas.
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