Ultimately, the goal of every parent in New Jersey is to provide the best possible life for their children after divorce or separation. To be able to do this, it is crucial to have a strong understanding of the child custody laws and procedures in the state. A child custody hearing can be an overwhelming experience, but proper preparation can make all the difference.
Know the basics
New Jersey family law follows the principle of determining custody based on the best interest of the child, taking into consideration factors such as the relationship between parent and child, stability and ability to provide for the child’s needs. There are two types of custody: physical (where the child resides) and legal (decision-making authority for the child).
If you get full physical custody, your child will reside with you most of the time. However, joint physical custody is also a possibility where both parents have equal or close to equal time with their child. Legal custody can be either sole (one parent makes all major decisions for the child) or joint (both parents make decisions together).
Gather necessary documents
Before your hearing, gather all relevant documents, such as your child’s birth certificate, school records and records, your call logs and messages with the other parent (if relevant), and proof of any relevant expenses you’ve incurred in caring for your child. These documents can help support your case and prove you are a capable and responsible parent.
Create a parenting plan
Family court judges often encourage parents to create a plan outlining how they will co-parent their child. They should cover details such as physical custody arrangements, visitation schedules, decision-making authority and any relevant guidelines for communication between parents. A well-thought-out parenting plan can demonstrate your commitment to your child’s well-being to the court.
Regardless of your circumstances, your central focus during the child custody hearing should be your kid’s well-being. Therefore, be open to cooperative discussions with your ex-spouse, demonstrating your willingness to maintain a stable environment for your child. If things work well, your kid will have the opportunity to spend quality time with both parents and build a strong bond with each other.