Financial Hurdles and Their Implications on Child Custody
Our Family Lawyers Help You Deal with Financial Challenges Seeking to Protect Your Custody Rights in Passaic County, NJ
Child custody is a term used for the legal arrangement between parents who have separated regarding with whom the child will live, for what periods, and who will have the decision-making power for the child. There are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to where the child will live, and legal custody determines who will make the legal decisions for the child. The New Jersey Family Court prefers that parents share custody and participate in decision-making regarding the education, health, religious upbringing, and other aspects of the child’s life. Joint custody offers flexibility and balance for the child who must adjust to a new home environment. Sole custody can be legal, physical, or both and is applied when one parent is unfit. Situations that result in sole custody include mental illness, substance abuse, child abuse or neglect, or when a stable, safe place to live cannot be established.
Influence of Financial Challenges on Child Custody Decisions in New Jersey
The courts do not often give sole custody to the parent with more significant economic resources, but there is an interest in keeping the child safe and well looked after. Basic needs such as a safe place to live, free of pests, adequately heated and cooled, clean, and a designated space for the child are many considerations. The residence need not be palatial, but it should cover the bases for the mental and physical health of the child.
Consistency is another aspect linked to financial issues that can affect child custody. If a parent is constantly moving from one place to another because they are unable to pay rent, or the electricity, gas, or water are cut off from time to time, these things can cause a change in custody. Children need to know what to expect and require normalcy to function well emotionally. Not knowing when or where they will eat or sleep can cause undue stress, affecting their daily lives.
If a parent is obligated to work overtime hours or has more than one job to make ends meet, the child could be left to their own devices, home by themselves, sometimes being left responsible for a younger sibling. The lack of face-to-face time with the parent can affect the child’s well-being. It is a catch-22 in that the parent wants to improve their financial situation to provide more for their child but is missing out on spending time with that child to meet their financial needs better.
Key Child Custody Factors Beyond Financial Considerations
Several factors can determine child custody that do not involve the financial capabilities of either parent. Substance abuse or other addictive behavior, such as gambling, for instance, can prevent a parent from having significant time with their child. Parental availability is another critical factor. A parent with more time to spend with their child will likely get custody over one away from home more of the time. A home where there is domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect is no place for a child. Similarly, a home that is messy, dirty, plagued with vermin, badly in need of repairs, located in a dangerous area, or noisy and chaotic will affect the right to custody. Lastly, a parent who lacks self-control, has anger problems, or is emotionally unstable can be seen by the court as an unfit parent.
Spotlight is Always on the Child’s Best Interest in Custody Cases
The New Jersey Family Court bases all of its decisions regarding child custody by using a standard known as the child’s best interests. It is a list composed of 14 factors used to assess the ability of the parents to provide a safe, healthy environment for their child. These include the parent’s relationship with the child, the amount of time spent with the child, the safety of the child, and the child’s preferences (based on their age). The parent’s physical, mental, and emotional health are also considered, and if there is a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or child abuse, that could prevent the parent involved from obtaining custody.
Navigating Financial Challenges as a Child Custody Payor
There are three common circumstances surrounding the economic circumstances of a single parent. The first is underemployment. Furloughs or cuts in scheduled work hours can create a financial deficit that affects the parent’s ability to care properly for themselves and their child.
Illness can also cause a change in economic conditions. Medical bills and an inability to continue working are a double whammy to the household’s financial stability and the parent’s ability to manage household responsibilities.
The third common problem is unemployment. Finding a new job isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers, especially when looking for a salary equal to or greater than the one you previously held. A lower wage could mean taking on another part-time job, which would mean less time to spend with your child.
Evaluating a Parent’s Ability to Ensure the Child’s Stability in NJ
The court examines the parent’s capacity to cover the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothes, a safe and adequate place to live, and healthcare. Housing must be consistent, without much moving around from place to place. Although it is impossible to avoid some crime, the neighborhood should be in an area where crime and violence are not a daily occurrence. Utilities, such as water, electricity, oil, or gas, must always be available. The court also looks at the educational opportunities provided to the child. Academic clubs and extracurricular sports require additional funding outside of field trips and school supplies. Enriching experiences are fundamental to a child’s growth, development, and peer socialization.
Can Financial Struggles Prompt Changes in Custody Agreements?
Yes, it can, but it is harder than you think. The courts of New Jersey base their decisions on the big picture: if the child’s basic needs are met, they are safe, they have adequate housing and food, and the parent can dedicate sufficient time and attention to them, chances are custody will not be modified. The court may require the parent whose economic resources are more ample to provide spousal and child support to supplement the lesser income.
Get the Answers to Your Questions Regarding Financial Issues Affecting Child Custody with the Attorneys at Montanari Law Group
Divorce and child custody agreements require knowledge of family law. Our lawyers at The Montanari Law Group can provide excellent guidance and representation whether you are requesting a custody modification or opposing one. Our experience and willingness to go the extra mile sets us apart from other firms. Strategy and negotiation skills are some of the tools we use to reach a custody agreement that best suits your child’s needs. It isn’t just about which parent has more financial resources. Parenting skills, a demonstrated interest in the child’s education, and the overall care provided are important factors that we will highlight.
If you would like a free consultation to discuss your concerns and see how we can help you resolve your custody issues in Ringwood, Wayne, Wanaque, Montclair, and areas throughout Passaic County, Bergen County, Hudson County, Essex County, and Northern New Jersey: call us today at (973) 233-4396 or complete a contact form.