Whether you're a stay-at-home dad or a single mom with two jobs, the daily stresses of being a parent inevitably leads to many bad decisions that you later regret. Most forms of bad parenting, such as yelling at your children to quiet down or being late to pick them up from school, are minor mistakes that typically don't leave any major scars on a child's psyche. Unfortunately, even the smallest of errors can seem like a big deal when placed under the microscope of the family courts. The majority of ex spouses or partners who share custody are able to abide by the terms of the original custody order without court intervention. Some exes, however, have a deep and abiding resentment towards each other, which causes them to accuse each other of being negligent or abusive parents. The arguments and finger-pointing are bad enough, but the situation reaches a boiling point when one parent threatens to take full physical and legal custody of the children.
If you are in this situation, you may be wondering what your chances are in court. You may have begun researching the issue online, or talked to other people who were in the same situation. While research can certainly be helpful, you've probably noticed that many of the answers to your questions are vague, or outright confusing. You may also be scared that certain national trends, such as parents forgetting about their children in the back seat of the car, could make any of your parenting errors look even worse than they really are.
This issue hit home for many divorced or separated parents in January 2014, when the New Jersey Appellate Division found a mother guilty of child neglect for leaving her son in the car for approximately 10 minutes while she went into a store. Although it wasn't a hot day, and the child was found in good health, the judges ruled that there was a high chance of danger to the child based on what could happen when a child is left in the car for any period of time.
Regardless of what you're accused of, this ruling is a scary example of how certain forms of questionable judgment may be viewed as child abuse by the courts. A good way to clear up your angst and confusion is to talk to a family law attorney with extensive trial experience in the New Jersey family courts. In spite of the aforementioned ruling, judges rarely take away a parent's right to have regular, consistent contact with his or her children. Furthermore, any ruling that affects an existing custody order would only be made after intense scrutiny of the facts, witness statements, observations by social workers, and other measures that help the judge assess your family's situation. If you need assistance with these court requirements, as well as representation for an upcoming custody hearing, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.