Going through a divorce is never easy. However, matters often become even more complicated when children are involved. Child custody determinations can be life-changing and will have lasting impacts on both the parents and children. As such, it’s crucial that you take the proper steps to protect your family.
If you are in the midst of a child custody dispute in New Jersey or are about to begin the process, Weiner Law is here to help. Use our guide below to learn more about child custody laws in New Jersey and how an attorney can help you move forward.
If you have questions, or would like to speak with a New Jersey family law attorney, please contact us today.
What to Look for In a Child Custody Attorney
With so many child custody lawyers in New Jersey to choose from, selecting one to represent you can understandably feel overwhelming. To help narrow down your search, here are a few traits and characteristics to look for when searching for a New Jersey child custody attorney.
First and foremost, look for lawyers who specialize in child custody and family law matters. Every area of law is highly specific, and when your family is at stake, a jack-of-all-trades simply will not do.
While any licensed attorney can technically represent you, the benefit of having someone with an extensive background in this particular area of law cannot be overstated.
Think of it this way: If you had a brain tumor, you would not go to a podiatrist for treatment. Areas of law are just as specialized as areas of medicine—so make sure you get someone with extensive experience with child custody matters.
Reputation and Recommendations
One of the best ways to get an honest assessment of an attorney’s quality of service is through reviews and testimonials from past clients. Seek recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues who may have worked with a child custody attorney that they would recommend.
Even if you don’t have any personal connections, you can always check for online reviews to get a sense of an attorney’s reputation.
While it’s certainly possible for both parents to reach an agreement on all custody-related matters without the need for trial, this is not always the case. Having an attorney with significant trial experience gives you a big leg up if your case ends up going to court.
Strong Communication Skills
Even if your case never goes to trial, it’s imperative that you select a lawyer with strong communication skills. This can be beneficial in the context of negotiations with opposing parties, as well as in your own day-to-day communications with your attorney.
Proven Track Record
At the end of the day, results are what matters most. Of course, no honest attorney can ever guarantee a particular outcome. However, past successes can be a great indicator of future results.
Overview of New Jersey Child Custody Laws and Considerations
If you’re not quite ready to select a child custody attorney for your case, that’s okay. We understand that this isn’t a decision to make lightly. In the meantime, while you consider your options, here are a few general things to keep in mind about child custody matters as you navigate through this process.
Child Custody Statistics
Going through a child custody dispute is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. In fact, according to recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 21.9 million children—representing more than a quarter of all children in the U.S. in 2018—had a parent who lived outside their household as part of some custody arrangement.
In April 2018, 12.9 million custodial parents primarily lived with these 21.9 million children, while the children’s other parent lived elsewhere.
However, custody arrangements can look significantly different from family to family. For example, 79.9% of custodial parents were mothers, while 20.1% were fathers.
No matter your particular situation, it’s no secret that custody matters can be complicated and emotionally charged. Thus, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need support along the way.
Types of Custody
In New Jersey, there are two types of custody. There is legal custody, which governs decision-making authority for the child, and physical custody, which governs where the child will reside. Further, custody can be either sole or joint. Thus, there are four primary categories of custody:
- Joint legal custody—both parents actively co-parent and share decision-making authority and access to information.
- Sole legal custody—one parent makes all major decisions concerning the child.
- Joint physical custody—the child lives with each parent an equal or nearly equal portion of the time.
- Sole physical custody—the child lives with one particular parent at least 51% of the time.
Although one parent can have both sole legal and physical custody, New Jersey public policy specifies that both parents should endeavor to have frequent and continuing contact with their child and share the rights and responsibilities of raising them where possible.
The Best Interest of the Child Standard
In making any custody determinations, the overarching goal is to do what is in the best interests of the child. This is commonly referred to as the “best interest of the child” standard.
Factors that New Jersey courts will typically consider in determining custody arrangements include the following:
- Ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate in matters relating to their child;
- Willingness of the parents to accept custody;
- Interactions and relationships between the child and their parents and siblings, if any;
- Needs and overall well-being of the child;
- Existence of any history of abuse or safety concerns with respect to either parent;
- Quality and continuity of the child’s education;
- Employment responsibilities of the parents;
- Stability of the home life offered; and
- Any other relevant factors that may exist.
An experienced New Jersey child custody and family law attorney can help you assess your situation and help show the court why your proposed custody arrangement is, in fact, in the best interest of your child.
Weiner Law: New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers You Can Trust
When it comes to something as precious as your children, it’s important that you have someone in your corner with the experience necessary to get you a just outcome.
At Weiner Law, we are a full-service law firm with the background and resources necessary to help you effectively fight for your rights and those of your family. But beyond that, we also believe in providing personalized service and building strong relationships with our clients.
From divorce matters to child custody disputes and everything in between, know that you can trust our team with your family law needs.
Contact us today to discuss your case and see what we can do for you.
Do I Have to Hire a Child Custody Lawyer for My Case?
No, you do not have to hire a child custody lawyer for your case. Although hiring an attorney is not a legal requirement in a New Jersey child custody case, having legal representation can go a long way toward increasing your chances of a successful outcome, all while reducing the amount of stress on your shoulders.
How Much Do Child Custody Lawyers Cost?
Rates for child custody lawyers vary widely depending on factors such as the attorney’s geographic location, number of years in practice, and level of experience handling family law and child custody matters. Thus, be sure to ask any prospective attorneys about their rates and fee structure before proceeding. While most law firms traditionally bill hourly for their services, many also offer certain services on a flat fee basis.