Your children are probably the most important people in your life. Becoming a parent changes you, and your children will influence every decision you make. In fact, your children could very well be why you haven’t yet decided to file for divorce.
Many New Jersey residents have heard horror stories about loving parents who only see their children every other weekend or who have no relationship with their kids at all following a messy divorce. If you understand how the law works, you won’t let unfounded fears determine what actions you take.
New Jersey wants both parents to share custody
It is the starting presumption in most family law cases that children need both parents. Rather than giving one parent primary custody and the other visitation, many family law judges would prefer to give both parents as much access to and time with the children as possible.
Of course, there are exceptions to this presumption. If one parent can present evidence to the courts that the other puts the children in danger, either through abusive behavior or negligence, possibly linked to substance abuse, the courts may still grant one parent sole custody. Otherwise, judges will typically do their best to divide parenting time in a manner that will keep both parents involved and that realistically reflects the family circumstances.
The judge will consider your rights, but they will keep the focus on the children. The best interests of the children will be the primary consideration for every choice the judge makes. Once you understand that, it will be easier for you to finesse your strategy in court. Sometimes, the way that you present the evidence can be as important as the evidence itself.
You don’t have to fight it out in court
Although it is still somewhat common for couples to litigate custody decisions, couples can settle outside of court either by collaborating or going to mediation together. Those who work out an agreement with the other parents can avoid the stress and expense involved in custody litigation. If you and the other parents set the terms for the division of custody in your family law case, you will be the ones who decide exactly how you share time with and responsibility for your children.
Knowing what to expect as you prepare for family law proceedings in New Jersey will take much of the stress out of child custody matters.