If you have evidence that your estranged spouse committed domestic violence against you or your children, New Jersey takes it into consideration when coming to a decision on child custody. In addition to assault, domestic violence includes harassment, stalking, criminal trespass, burglary, criminal restraint, terroristic threats and sexual assault.
What could happen?
It’s unlikely a judge would give sole or joint custody to a parent who has committed domestic violence whether against their spouse or their child. However, judges typically won’t outright bar a parent from seeing their child. In this type of situation, a court may rule that the parent who committed domestic violence can only see their child under court-approved supervision. The court may also ban overnight visits. It’s possible for the judge to ban the parent from seeing their child until they complete counseling or parenting classes.
During a custody case
If the judge has a reason for concern during the custody case, they may immediately pull the child out of the dangerous environment. Keeping children safe is a priority to the judge. The parent who isn’t accused of domestic violence might have temporary custody over the child until the court case is complete.
If a public agency, private agency or an individual files a complaint of domestic violence with the court, the child could become a ward of the court. Judges have the right to appoint a guardian to watch over the child if neither parent is fit to take care of them.
Severe cases of child abuse
In severe cases of child abuse and neglect, the New Jersey court could permanently terminate the parent’s legal and physical custody rights. There isn’t a path to regaining these rights.
It depends on the details and severity of the domestic violence for how it affects child custody. The abusive parent might only get restricted visitation rights in order to ensure the child’s safety. If they go through counseling and parenting classes, they increase the chances of a judge allowing more involvement in their child’s life.