Custody Determinations in Pending Divorce Cases in New Jersey

If a Divorce is Ongoing, Arrangements Must Still be Made for the Children Involved, including Where they will Live and How Daily Activities will be Handled Among the Parents.

How is Custody Decided Before a NJ Divorce is Finalized?

When parents divorce one another, they may overlook that children do not divorce their parents. Children still have the right to relationships with each parent despite a separation or divorce. Keeping a family intact during a divorce or separation is the goal of temporary child custody orders. Temporary orders are available to maintain stability and regular parent-child contact before the parties get a final order.

Agreeing vs. Awarding Custody Before Divorce is Final in NJ

Spouses can have a temporary order by agreement or court decision. In other words, they can agree in writing to when, where, and how each parent spends time with the children. They may also agree to temporary child support and pende lite alimony pending the final divorce decree. Agreements are best for all involved if the parties can compromise. Otherwise, they may petition a court to make a temporary court order of child custody upon review of one party’s petition for a temporary child custody order. The parties may sign an agreement, or the court may order sole physical custody to one parent and visitation to the other, shared physical custody, or joint physical custody.

Options for Custody while Parents are Getting Divorced in New Jersey

New Jersey favors a 50/50 custody arrangement when the parties can accommodate split custody, and it is in the child’s best interests. Sole custody may be appropriate when a child’s primary residence is with one parent, the home where they sleep most nights, and the other parent visits with the child who may spend one night a week with the noncustodial parents. Shared physical custody and joint physical custody arrangements include more time for the noncustodial parent, though only joint physical custody apportions equal time between the parents.

How Judges Decide Child Custody During NJ Divorce

As in any child custody decision, a judge considers the best interests of the child first, among other factors. Their health, safety, and welfare are paramount. As such, a court reviews the total circumstances and wishes of the parents and child when the child is old and mature enough to articulate their preferences. A child’s needs and each parent’s means also factor into the decision. A judge wants to know that a child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and education, are met. Their emotional and psychological needs are also essential. Thus, a child’s optimal situation is two cooperating parents about those needs. So, when one parent does not cooperate in decision-making regarding the child, a court may not award joint or shared custody.

Other factors a judge considers are the child’s relationship with each parent, the time the child spends with each other, a parent’s location, employment, mental health, physical health, and history of substance abuse or violence. It also matters whether one parent has been the primary caregiver before the separation or divorce.

So, when a child’s friends, special educational needs, and extracurricular activities revolve around one parent’s residence, a court may consider the best interests of the child, which is to maintain their connections and goals, by designating that parent as the primary custodial caregiver, especially if the other parent lives far away and was the primary caregiver before the divorce or separation. A court reviews the entire set of facts associated with a family to make a temporary custody order.

What if Parents Can’t Come to an Agreement for Temporary Custody while Separated?

What if Parents Can't Come to an Agreement for Temporary Custody while Separated in Ocean County NJ?The best custodial arrangements for the family typically result from a negotiated agreement between the parties. Optimally, the parties can agree on their own. However, that may not be possible when disagreements arise. Fortunately, there are other options than racing to court to let a judge decide.

Mediation and alternative dispute resolution services are available to help parties craft a custody agreement or even an entire divorce decree. Mediators and arbitrators are neutral third parties who assist couples in making decisions about their situation in a divorce.

Divorcing spouses may use a private or court-ordered mediation service to guide them through the child custody process. It is a less contentious option than fighting it out in court and can save couples time and money. The goal of mediation is to arrive at a mutual custody agreement that is in the best interests of the child, beneficial to the parties, and legally binding without a court hearing. The mediation process may take one or several meetings to reach an agreement.

Arbitration is another alternative dispute resolution a couple may use instead of trying a temporary custody dispute in court. In this more formal proceeding than mediation but less formal than a court hearing, an arbitrator decides after a hearing from both sides. The parties may have attorneys at a scheduled hearing on an available date for all concerned. The couple can determine whether the arbitrator’s decision is binding or non-binding. If non-binding, either party can go to court and litigate temporary custody if the decision is unfavorable.

Get Answers to Your Pending Divorce Custody Questions from our Southern New Jersey Law Firm

Child custody is often a hot-button issue in a divorce. Feelings run high, and parents often need help getting through a challenging custody matter. Legal representation can help you as a confused and distraught parent who needs to make the right decisions without giving up your rights. Our family lawyers can educate you about the law, the likelihood of your wishes being granted, and your legal rights.

Even when couples agree on temporary custody, they may not know how to make their agreement legally binding through a court order. At Bronzino Law Firm, our seasoned family law attorneys can help advise you, negotiate a temporary custody agreement, and prepare a final agreement and order for a judge to approve.

Sometimes, parents simply cannot resolve custody disputes amicably. In these cases, our team of aggressive custody attorneys is there to represent our clients, litigate a contentious custody dispute during a trial in family court if necessary, and convince a judge what is in the best interests of the children involved. Our wealth of experience with the law, judges, and opposing counsel works in your favor at a temporary child custody hearing in Monmouth county, Ocean county, or another county in Southern New Jersey. Choose an experienced family law attorney at our Jersey Shore law firm to help you negotiate a temporary child custody agreement or represent you in court. Start today by contacting us at (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation.