Passaic County NJ Child Custody Lawyers

Parenting Time and Visitation Attorneys in Little Falls, New Jersey

Passaic County NJ Child Custody Lawyers
Family Care And Protection

Child custody and parenting time, or visitation, can represent some of the most difficult and emotionally-charged issues to be resolved during a divorce. New Jersey law acknowledges that in most cases, it is in the best interests of the child to maintain frequent and continuing contact with both parents, while both parents share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing. Although both parents likely want to develop an arrangement that is in the child’s best interests, they often differ drastically about what this actually means. Coming to an agreement with regard to child custody can be taxing emotionally for you and your children, while the outcome will spell long-term implications for their future. Understanding your parental rights and responsibilities and developing a child custody configuration that best serves the needs of you and your family can be challenging; however, a knowledgeable divorce attorney can serve as your greatest asset during this trying time.

The attorneys of The Montanari Law Group provide support and guidance to divorcing parents facing child custody and parenting time issues. Utilizing our considerable experience and resources, we work tirelessly to develop workable solutions that best serve the needs of your children and family. Our divorce attorneys have assisted countless clients in Little Falls, Wayne, Clifton, Hawthorne, Ringwood, Bergenfield, Elmwood Park, and throughout Passaic, Bergen, Hudson, and Essex counties in arriving at favorable child custody configurations. We understand that each case is unique, requiring a specific approach that is informed by the circumstances, priorities, and needs of the individuals involved. As such, we will take the time to learn as much as we can about your situation and work with you to devise the best strategy for you and your family. To discuss your case with a member of our seasoned family law team today, contact our Passaic County offices at 973-233-4396 or toll-free at 888-877-7985 for a free initial consultation.

Types of Child Custody in New Jersey

There are two distinct types of child custody under New Jersey law: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the actual place in which the child will reside and spend time. On the other hand, legal custody refers to the decision-making power that one or both parents have to make significant decisions regarding how the child is raised, including his or her education, religious upbringing, and medical care.

There are a variety of child custody configurations that may be applicable depending on the circumstances of your specific case. For example, primary physical custody can be granted to one parent, with whom the child primarily lives, while visitation or parenting time is granted to the other parent. The parent with primary physical custody is referred to as the primary custodial parent, while the other parent is referred to as the non-custodial parent. In other cases, physical custody can be shared among both parents, with the child spending equal time at both residences and alternating between the two. This arrangement is often referred to as joint or shared physical custody. Sole physical custody can also be granted in certain cases in which the child resides with one parent and spends less than two overnights per week with the other parent.

As for legal custody, joint legal custody allows both parents to participate in the process of decision-making with regard to the child’s education, religious upbringing, medical care, and other important decisions. Conversely, sole legal custody provides unilateral decision-making to one parent, meaning that he or she can make significant decisions related to the child’s welfare without consulting the other parent.

Ultimately, the child custody arrangement should be based on the best interests of the child after considering the factors outlined below. Parents can arrive at any number of configurations, including shared physical and legal custody, primary physical custody to one parent and joint legal custody, sole physical custody to one parent and joint legal custody, or sole physical and legal custody granted to one parent.

Factors that Influence Child Custody in New Jersey

When making custody decisions, the New Jersey Courts are laser-focused on what is best for the children involved.  The concept of “best interests of the child” is constantly weighed against the parent’s wishes.  Co-parenting skills, economic stability, the child’s health, education, and safety are a part of those interests.  The court’s decisions lean towards keeping the children and parents together, but when the children are in danger of being abused, neglected, or mistreated physically, mentally, or emotionally, alternative measures must be taken. The Court encourages parents to remain involved in their children’s lives unless and until there are reasons to avoid it.  Courts prefer joint custody, but that does not mean a 50/50 custody time split.

According to N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c), the New Jersey courts must consider the following factors when determining appropriate child custody and parenting time arrangements:

  1. Each parent’s ability to communicate and cooperate with the other in matters regarding the child;
  2. Each parent’s willingness to encourage the child to maintain a strong relationship with the other parent;
  3. The child’s relationship with each parent and his or her siblings;
  4. The child’s safety in each parent’s care
  5. The child’s needs;
  6. Each parent’s ability to offer a stable home environment;
  7. The quality and continuity of the child’s education;
  8. The child’s parental preference if of sufficient age and capacity to reason;
  9. Each parent’s fitness to care for the child;
  10. Each parent’s geographical proximity to the other;
  11. Each parent’s employment responsibilities;
  12. Each parent’s time with the child before the parents’ separation;
  13. Each child’s age; and
  14. Each parent’s history of domestic abuse, if any.

Custody Agreements vs. Court Orders in NJ Custody Cases

A custody agreement is a decision reached by the child’s parents on how the visitation schedule and decision-making powers will be distributed or shared. It allows the parents to control their parenting schedule, including negotiating vacations, holidays, activities, and other aspects of the child’s life. A court order, on the other hand, is a judge’s decision based on their evaluation of the situation and each parent’s ability to care for their child. A court order is used when parents refuse to agree on a custody plan. One way or another, a parenting plan must be ratified by the court. It is preferred that it comes from the parents, but the court will decide for them if an agreement is not feasible.

The benefits of having a custody agreement are the autonomy it provides in decision-making for the parents and the opportunity it allows them to stretch their negotiation muscles.  Additionally, because they know their child best, they are better equipped to make those critical decisions.  Avoiding court battles reduces the time it takes to settle a divorce, which helps lower legal fees, time missed from work, and other court-related expenses.  The cons of choosing a custody agreement are the possible difficulties encountered when exes cannot overcome disagreements.  The longer the discussions continue, the more expensive the process can become. Also, the court will eventually have to decide if an agreement cannot be reached.

Getting a court order prevents parents from arguing, and no compromise is involved in the decision-making process, but the parents may not get everything they requested in the order. The negative side is that for as much information as is provided to the court, the judge will not know as much about the children as their parents. The court can take much longer than expected to decide than it would when processing a mutual agreement.

What to do When Seeking Custody

Before filing for custody, parents may create an out-of-court agreement to submit to the court, thus avoiding a months-long battle for a decision they may or may not agree with.  The court will frequently require parents to participate in some form of mediation to create an agreement, at least in general terms. An action for child custody begins when you submit a motion for custody in the court where your child resides most of the time.  The Family Division of the court has several forms that need to be completed and submitted and the necessary fees that must be paid.  The complaint you submit to the court describes your intentions about child custody, a parenting plan, and other pertinent information, such as the kind of custody you seek.

Essential Components of a Detailed Custody Agreement

As with any legal agreement, the devil is in the details.  The more specific a custody agreement is, the less opportunity there is for confusion and arguments.  For example, a plan for parenting time that lists the number of overnight visits is not enough. The plan should also include holidays, vacations, family events, birthdays, and family traditions.  A list of rules regarding discipline, religion, education, nutrition, and other things should be included in the agreement between the children and the parents.  Child support, tax benefits, tax refunds, and medical and dental issues must also be decided.  Parents can include how they will communicate with each other and through what method (messaging, email, phone calls, etc.).

Parent’s Education Program: Equipping Parents to Support Their Children

This is a mandatory educational program for divorcing parents that helps them focus on the emotional needs and well-being of their children even though the family is experiencing separation. This program advises and guides parents through conflict resolution and positive parenting. Topics include creating and following a budget, managing children’s responses to divorce, keeping the channels of communication open between all parties, dealing with changes when new parental relationships form and families are blended, establishing house rules, and creating a consistent behavioral plan.

Considering Non-Parental Custody in Difficult Situations

Top Lawyers for Creating Child Custody Plans in New JerseyTypically, custody is given to one or both parents. Still, it is possible for a non-parent to petition the court for custody under extenuating circumstances such as illness, death, substance abuse, and other dangerous situations by the biological parents.  Grandparents and other adult relatives who have a caring and loving relationship with the child or foster parents who have bonded with them may be candidates in these situations.

Contact our Wayne NJ Child Custody Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Child custody issues always present challenges, even under the best of circumstances. Although legal representation to request child custody is not required, it is a process that should not be embarked upon without a talented family lawyer. There are too many possible outcomes, and you do not want to leave the fate of your children to chance. Our seasoned legal professionals at The Montanari Law Group have successfully handled many child custody cases like yours in Woodland Park, Union City, Jersey City, Hackensack, West Milford, Wyckoff, Millburn, Ridgewood, Prospect Park, and elsewhere in northern New Jersey. We know how difficult decisions must be made and provide you with the support and guidance you need during custody proceedings.

To speak to one of our highly knowledgeable Passaic County child custody attorneys, contact us at 973-233-4396 or toll-free at 888-877-7985 for a free initial consultation. Our Little Falls, New Jersey office is conveniently located next to major highways with access to public transportation.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.