If you are a New Jersey parent seeking sole custody — either in conjunction with your divorce/separation or as a modification of an existing order — you should know that New Jersey courts make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. Judges are given great latitude in making that determination; the only requirement is that they must follow New Jersey public policy as follows:
- The child has frequent and continuous contact with each parent;
- The child lives in a safe, stable and violent-free environment; and
- Both parents share in the rights and duties of raising the child.
However, that is a perfect-world scenario. Realistically, a judge is also likely to weigh a number of other factors in determining what is best for the child, including:
- Emotional and physical needs of the child
- Stability of the parents
- Living environment of each parent’s household
- If both parents are capable of caring for the child in the same manner
- The likelihood of both parents being able to co-parent successfully
- If the child is over the age of 12, the court may consider his or her wishes when determining the best custody arrangement for the child.
Termination of Parental Rights
It is rare that New Jersey courts will terminate one parent’s rights, and they typically require clear and convincing evidence that such termination is in the best interests of the child. Some examples of parental behavior that may cause a court to terminate parental rights include:
- Abandoning a child
- Knowingly placing a child in a dangerous situation
- Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct
- Committing domestic violence
- Chronic substance abuse
Proving that your former spouse has exhibited any of these behaviors may be enough to get a New Jersey court to grant you sole custody.
Filing for Sole Custody
There is an established protocol for filing for sole custody in New Jersey that involves the completion of several forms and providing other documentation to the court. If you are serious about pursuing sole custody, this is not something you should do on your own. You need the expertise and guidance of an experienced child custody attorney to help you make your case for sole custody since the courts consider this a very serious step.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often prove crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.