Parents are expected to set a good example for their children, but they are also fallible and emotional human beings, who are prone to making mistakes. Some mistakes are minor; occasionally yelling at your child or forgetting to pick up their his favorite snack, for example. Other mistakes, however, are not so easy to ignore, especially when you are fighting for access to your child.
These mistakes, by the way, do not have to involve behaviors or actions that directly hurt the child. In fact, the majority of custody disputes center around personal issues such as recreational drug use, not making enough money, and lifestyle choices that vastly differ from what the child is used to. Parents may also be accused of dating or living with someone who is a threat to the child, or lives a lifestyle that may be inappropriate for children.
Regardless of your current situation, you should be aware that the courts rarely deny parents their right to be involved in their children's lives. Furthermore, New Jersey divorce statutes contain no specific grounds that would automatically terminate an individual's parental rights. As a result, judges must base custody arrangements according to the child's best interests, which involve the consideration of many factors.
These factors include, but are not limited to, the child's age, needs and interests, the child's current relationship to each parent, and the child's preference for where he or she wants to live (if they are old enough). The court also examines each parent's home environment, work schedule and financial state, as well as interpersonal issues between the parents. Acts of domestic abuse, for example, can have an effect on custody, but most parents still receive legal custody and visitation with their children, although the visits may be supervised by the state's Supervised Visitation Program. However, the goal of the program is to eventually allow for unsupervised visits.
How the "best interests" standard applies to you depends on the unique circumstances between you, your child, and your spouse/ former spouse. While there are no guarantees on how a judge will rule, the most important thing is to educate yourself about how the family courts are ruling on these types of issues. If you are being threatened with loss of custody, or facing an upcoming hearing concerning your parental rights. please consider speaking with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Since the judge can only rule based on what is presented in court, it is imperative that you put together the strongest argument possible, including clear, well-documented evidence and witnesses who can support your claims. Putting these elements together requires help from an experienced trial attorney, like the ones at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our attorneys can also advise you on alternative arrangements that may help you resolve your dispute without going to court. For a full explanation of your parental rights and options, please schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.