In my years as a family lawyer in New Jersey, I’ve seen many parents and judges use similar criteria when determining what is truly in their child’s best interest. For the parents who can cooperate and put the needs of their child first, this criteria may keep them out of court and allow them to agree to a parenting time schedule. And for the parents in a contentious divorce, this criteria is used by the judge to protect the child from some of the unsavory tactics one or both parents may use to get their way when it comes to custody.
Nearly all New Jersey child custody cases rely on what is known as the child’s best interest standard to determine a suitable custody arrangement. Here’s how this set of criteria often ends up dictating who the child will live with and when the other parent will have time to visit.
The Basics of the Best Interest Standard
What does the court consider when determining the child’s best interests? These factors may include:
- Special needs a child may have and how each parent takes care of those needs
- The need for continuation of a stable home environment
- Adjustments to school and community
- Other children whose custody is relevant to this child’s custody arrangement
- Interactions and interrelationships with other members of household
- Support and opportunity for interaction with grandparents and members of the extended family
- Religious and/or cultural considerations
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- Whether there is evidence of abuse or neglect, parental drug use, and/or other dangerous circumstances in the home
- The wishes of the child, assuming he is old enough to capably express a preference.
No single factor determines with which parent a child should live. In past decades, many believed a child should stay with his mother no matter what. Luckily, judges and New Jersey divorce attorneys are now paying much more attention to each child’s complex needs. This holistic approach is ultimately more beneficial to the child.
The Best Interest Standard During Mediation
Even when co-parents want to attempt custody mediation without going to court, their New Jersey child custody lawyers often advise them to keep this standard in mind. If one parent disregards it in favor of what they want for their child (instead of what their child needs), negotiations will often fail and the couple will end up in court – where a judge will use that same criteria to determine custody. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you can avoid the legal definition of your child’s best interest; it will likely catch up to you at some point in the custody process.
The best way to address child custody for fathers is by hiring a knowledgeable family law attorney in New Jersey, such as the lawyers at The Micklin Law Group. Our team members can help you overcome harmful stereotypes about fathers that would otherwise hurt your custody case. We’ll work hard to show your co-parent and the judge that you are a loving parent and deserve time with your child. Learn more about our child custody services by scheduling a consultation with one of our compassionate fathers’ rights lawyers in New Jersey. Call our Nutley office at 973-562-0100 to get started.