When parents divorce, they will need to have a custody arrangement in place for their children. In New Jersey, there is a process they must follow to do this.
Child custody process
The process beings when one parent files a complaint for custody with the court. The court will schedule an initial court appearance where both parents will meet with the judge or a court-appointed mediator to try to agree on a custody arrangement.
The court may order each party to exchange information and documents related to the dispute or may require them to attend mediation. If the mediation is successful, the parents can create a written custody agreement which the court will review.
If they are not able to agree during mediation, the court may require them to attend a hearing to present evidence and order a custody evaluation. After considering the evidence, the court will issue a custody order.
Best interest of the child
Family courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. There are several factors that the court may review to determine this.
These include the child’s age, health and developmental needs, the relationship the child has with each parent and the child’s ties to their community, school and other family members.
The court will also evaluate each parent’s ability to care for the child’s needs, including their emotional needs. It is helpful if each parent can commit to supporting a relationship between the child and the other parent as well. Sometimes, the court will also consider the child’s wishes, if they are old enough to understand the process.
If applicable, the court will also review any history of substance abuse or domestic violence to determine if the environment where the child will be living is in their best interest.