When a parent loses custody of a child, it is a traumatic and stressful event for everyone involved. Having an experienced Bergen County family law attorney to guide you through the challenges of losing custody can make a difference. It is important to hire a child custody lawyer with experience who will help you understand the complex New Jersey laws that apply in child custody cases and what you must do to regain custody of your child. 

What Custody Rights Does a Parent Have in New Jersey?

When parents in New Jersey separate or divorce, the rights of both parents are equal. The law presumes they will share legal and physical custody of the child. This is called “joint” custody. 

When parents share joint custody, the court will enter an order that includes:

  • Provisions for the parents to share responsibility in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and general welfare (legal custody); and
  • Provisions for the child to reside either solely with one parent or alternately between both parents (physical custody); or 
  • Sole custody to one parent (the custodial parent) and appropriate parenting time or visitation for the noncustodial parent.

The court’s order for custody is always based on what is in the best interest of the child.

What Factors Does the Court Consider When Deciding Custody?

When a court makes a custody award, it must consider at least the following factors:

  • The parent’s ability to communicate and cooperate in agreeing to matters affecting the child;
  • The parents’ acceptance of the custody arrangement and each parent’s willingness to facilitate the other parent’s custody time (avoid parental alienation syndrome);
  • The relationship of the child with the parents and siblings;
  • Any history of domestic violence;
  • The child’s safety and either parent’s risk of physical abuse by the other parent;
  • The preference of the child (if old enough to make a reasoned decision);
  • The child’s needs;
  • The stability of the home environment;
  • The quality and continuity of the child’s education;
  • The fitness of the parents;
  • The proximity of the parents’ homes;
  • Each parent’s relationship with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
  • Each parent’s employment responsibilities; 
  • The age and number of any other children

The court will consider these and other relevant factors to determine the custody arrangement that serves the child’s best interest.

N.J. Stat. 9:2-2 provides that divorced or separated parents involved in a custody dispute may not remove a child from the jurisdiction of the court without the following consent:

  • The child’s (if of sufficient age to consent); or
  • Both parents (if the child is not of sufficient age to consent); unless
  • Upon a showing of cause, the court orders the child’s removal from the jurisdiction

Removing a child from the jurisdiction without consent could result in losing custody. 

Fathering a Child Through Rape

N.J. Stat. 9:2-4.1 prohibits a person convicted of sexual assault under N.J. Stat. 2C:14-2 from obtaining custody or visitation rights to any minor child, including a minor child who was born as a result of or was the victim of the sexual assault.

Concealing the Child

Pursuant to N.J. Stat. 9:2-7.2, if parents are separated but are not divorced and one parent conceals the whereabouts of the child from the other parent, the other parent may petition the court for a preliminary hearing. The court can then make a custody determination allowing access to the child.

Parental Unfitness

The most common way for a parent to lose custody of their child is by demonstrating unfitness, which is defined in N.J. Stat. 9:2-9 as:

  • Being grossly immoral;
  • Being unfit to be entrusted with the care and education of the child;
  • Neglecting to properly protect, maintain, and educate the child;
  • Engaging in habits that endanger the welfare of the child, make the child a public charge; or 
  • Abandoning the child by being unable to be found.

For any of these acts to be sufficient for a parent to lose custody, the parent’s conduct must have a substantial adverse effect on the child.

Mental Incapacity

A parent’s custody may be affected if the parent suffers from a mental incapacity that prevents them from being able to care for and support the child because of:

  • A mental health condition;
  • An intellectual disability; or
  • A substance use disorder.

The relevant condition or disability must substantially prevent the custodial parent from being able to serve as the child’s primary caretaker. 

Do I Need a Hackensack or Bergen County Family Law Attorney for My Custody Case? 

Don’t leave the custody of your child up to chance. You need an experienced family law and child custody attorney fighting for you if you want to gain or retain custody of your child. They understand child custody issues and how important your right to custody is to you and to your child. They can also protect the best interest of your child.

Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help

Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bergen County Law Office
1 University Plaza Dr #400, Hackensack, NJ 07601, United States