Domestic Violence and Child Custody Attorneys Passaic County NJ
Seasoned Attorneys Advising on Family Law and Domestic Violence issues in Woodland Park, Clifton, Paterson, Wayne and across Northern New Jersey
Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in New Jersey and across the United States and world. According to the New Jersey State Police, in 2016, the last year for which data is publicly available, there were 63,420 reported offenses of domestic violence in the state. Trends show that numbers of cases are not seeing a decline through the years, and statistics show that due to the shelter-in-place orders resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, first-time and repeat domestic violence offenses have risen exponentially.
Whether domestic abuse is happening between a couple or children are also being abused, its effects are felt by everyone in the family. The trauma caused by domestic violence – experienced or witnessed – can last for a lifetime. Because of the serious psychological, emotional, and potentially physical ramifications of abuse on children in a relationship, during a child custody hearing, the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part considers strongly whether domestic violence was present in the relationship.
In the eyes of the court, what is considered domestic violence, and what role does it play in the determination of a child custody hearing? Read on to learn more.
What is domestic violence?
The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act specifies 19 actions that courts consider chargeable domestic violence offenses. The severity of the offenses varies, and as such, so does their consequences. They all, however, fall under the umbrella of “domestic violence” in New Jersey:
- assault, including unwanted physical contact
- criminal restraint or physical detainment
- cyber harassment
- harassment, or repeated or anonymous communication intended to invoke fear
- criminal sexual contact
- kidnapping, which can be a domestic violence charge in addition to standing on its own as a criminal offense
- false imprisonment
- disobeying a restraining order
- destruction of personal property
- crimes that involve risk to the physical safety of someone protected by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991
- homicide, which can be a domestic violence charge in addition to standing on its own as a criminal offense
Who is considered a victim of domestic abuse?
Victims of domestic violence can be someone of varying relation to the abuser according to New Jersey law:
- someone dating or married to the person when the abuse takes place;
- someone who is pregnant with the child of the abuser, whether or not they are together;
- someone who has a child with the abuser, whether or not they are together; and
- anyone over the age of 18 or an emancipated minor who has been in any of the above circumstances.
How does domestic violence affect a child custody hearing?
There are two types of custody that are taken into consideration during a custody hearing: physical custody and legal custody. A child lives with the parent(s) given physical custody, and those parents are responsible for meeting the basic daily needs of the child. A parent given legal custody has the right to share in the process of making decisions that affect the child, such as where the child will attend school and what medical care the child will receive.
There are, of course, numerous considerations a judge takes into account during a child custody hearing, not the least of which is whether domestic violence was present in the home, and the directness of its effect on the child. The main considerations a judge includes in their review of who is fit for legal and physical custody are
- how well the separating parents can communicate amicably and effectively as it relates to the wellbeing of their child
- any history of conflict surrounding shared parenting and parenting time schedules during the relationship or separation
- the stability and flow of the home environment of each parent
- each parent’s professional stability and income
- a close review of the quality of interaction between parents and all children
- review of the amount of quality time that each parent spent with the child before and during the divorce
- the desires of the child regarding with whom they would like to live
- the child’s needs, including their physical safety, educational opportunity, and emotional wellbeing
- the physical safety of the child, as well as each parent’s safety from physical abuse by the other parent
- any history of domestic violence in the home
- the number of children involved in the child custody settlement
A judge is required to consider domestic violence history as a key factor in the child custody proceeding.
What happens if domestic violence was present?
A judge determines what visitation a parent who is not given physical custody of the child may have. If there has been a history of domestic violence, it is likely that a judge will order supervised visits or restrict overnight visits. The judge may also order that the abusive parent complete therapy before being allowed visitation rights with or without supervision.
Temporary Restraining Orders
If a person shows evidence of domestic violence and pursues a restraining order, they may be awarded temporary custody of a child until the full custody hearing can be scheduled. Because the court holds the child’s safety and wellbeing at the center of all divorce and custody cases, a judge will order what they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the child until final custody is determined.
Retain a Seasoned Divorce Team of Attorneys in Little Falls NJ
At The Montanari Law Group, our team is committed to serving our clients in Paterson, Hawthorne, Wayne, and across Northern New Jersey in all domestic violence cases.
Our unique approach supports our clients in facilitating the legal process in the child custody agreement and any domestic abuse charges so that they can focus on safely and steadily building their new life.
To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced member of our firm regarding your child custody case, please feel free to fill out our online form or give us a call through our Little Falls office today at 973-233-4396 for a free consultation.