Key Factors Considered in NJ Custody Decisions

In Child Custody Proceedings in New Jersey, Judges Make Their Decisions with The Child’s Best Interests in Mind. Favorable Actions Can Strengthen a Parent’s Case, Whereas Detrimental Ones Can Weaken It.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in Child Custody Cases in Passaic County, NJChild custody is one of the most difficult decisions a family court judge must make. According to New Jersey law (New Jersey Revised Statutes § 9:2-4A), custody and visitation will be resolved according to the “best interests of the child,”  which is a compilation of the factors to consider when deciding about child custody.  Some factors involve the child’s safety.  If there is a history of domestic violence in general or there are instances of abuse against the other parent and child, decisions must be made to protect them.  Whether a parent is fit to care for a child can be a safety concern, as can the environment in which the child will live.  Other factors rely on inter-family relationships and prioritizing the child’s needs. Parents’ abilities to discuss, cooperate, and decide about the child are essential.  Focus is placed on the relationship between the child, parents, and other siblings or step-siblings. Once a child is old enough, the court may take into account the child’s wishes regarding custody.   The mental, physical, and emotional needs of the child are primordial and should be a priority in any custody decision. This means the amount of quality time each parent spends with the child and how close the parents live to one another are valued components. The quality and consistency of the child’s schooling and each parent’s work schedules are also analyzed.

Montanari Law Group offers experienced family law and custody attorneys in Montclair, Fort Lee, Wanaque, Montvale, Millburn, Short Hills, Kearny, Clifton, and across Essex County, Passaic County, Hudson County, and Bergen County. We are specifically focused on family law matters such as child custody, divorce, chil  and child abuse/neglect cases. Contact us today! Call (973) 233-4396 or complete our online form.

How Mitigating and Aggravating Factors Influence Custody Decisions in DCF Cases

When investigating a case, child welfare workers seek information regarding the relevant factors before taking a child from the home. Mitigating factors provide a rationalization for a parent’s actions. Aggravating factors can increase the seriousness of the allegations because they contribute to the harm of the child or put them at risk of serious harm.  Some factors weigh heavier than others and may not sway the decisions made by DCF.

Mitigating factors are not excuses but can provide additional reasons as to why something happened the way it did or how the parent attempted to remedy the situation immediately.  If a parent takes remedial actions before the investigation has ended, it is a point in their favor.  For example, if the child didn’t have a space of their own to sleep and the parent purchased a bed, that is a remedial action.  Everyone, including parents, can experience stress or extraordinary circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one or a serious financial issue. Those factors can influence how others are treated, and abuse or neglect can result.  Being distraught is not an excuse for putting a child at risk, but it does explain.  Maybe the parent has a mental illness and has sought help. When the abuse or neglect is an isolated incident, and there is no history of prolonged abuse, it is considered a mitigating factor.  If there is no pattern of abuse, there is no need to assume the child is in danger.  The impact of the abuse or neglect is another factor.  If the consequences of the abuse or neglect were negligible, it is a mitigating circumstance.

Aggravating factors can make a bad situation worse. When parents defy court orders, such as protective orders, safety plans, or other custody issues, they can endanger their chances for custody.  If the child is very young, developmentally delayed, cognitively or physically disabled, or otherwise vulnerable, it can affect custody.  When a parent attempts to cause physical, mental, emotional, or psychological harm, or there is clear evidence that the abuse or neglect was frequent or part of a pattern of behavior, safety concerns could prevent the parent from having custody of the child. Drug or alcohol abuse, unsafe living conditions,  Abuse or neglect in an institution, such as a boarding school, boot camp, or other rehabilitation facility, demands action as well.

How Judges Consider Criminal Records in Child Custody Proceedings

Criminal charges can have a compelling effect on child custody. The judge considers a multitude of factors when reviewing a parent’s criminal record. A disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) may not seem serious, but it can be of concern when related to a history of drug and alcohol abuse or violence.  Charges such as a DUI, lewdness, or assault can raise red flags in terms of custody because they demonstrate a lack of self-control.

Felony convictions can affect a judge’s decision regarding child custody. Judges will examine your criminal record and the circumstances surrounding your case. In some cases, where the crime occurred several years prior or was an isolated incident, it could have little influence on a judge’s decision.   A conviction involving violent crimes, extended prison stays, parole, or probation carries significant weight in a custody decision.

When it comes to certain grave crimes, a judge may give the other parent full custody until the circumstances change and the child’s safety isn’t at risk.  Some of those crimes include homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, kidnapping, stalking, or any offense that could endanger a child, such as weapons charges.

Showing You Care: Mitigating Factors in Child Custody Cases

Measures for Success in Child Custody Cases in New JerseyMitigating factors can demonstrate to the court that you are interested in your child’s health and welfare.  Getting counseling for yourself and, if needed, for your child is a proactive step to developing a better relationship with them.  If substance abuse is an issue, regularly going to abstinence meetings and surrounding yourself with positive people who support your sobriety is another factor.  Allowing your child to spend time with extended relatives, such as grandparents, not only supports you but strengthens the bond between your child and their relatives.  Additionally, get involved in your child’s education and extracurricular activities as much as possible to show your support.  Demonstrate flexibility with the other parent and treat them with respect.  You don’t have to be friends, but constantly arguing in front of your child or making disparaging remarks isn’t good.

Experienced Family Law Firm Achieving Positive Outcomes in New Jersey Child Custody Cases

Child custody battles are challenging.  No one wants to be away from their child, and the prospect of losing custody or having limited access to your child is gut-wrenching.  But with the proper representation, we can provide extensive and detailed evidence showing the court you are more than fit to be a parent and have the tools necessary to provide for your child’s well-being. At the Montanari Law Group, our custody attorneys research every case to present you in the best possible light regarding your right to custody. We will present the mitigating factors of your case to demonstrate to the court your desire to improve yourself and your relationship with your child.  We will show your ability to provide for your child’s mental, emotional, physical, and psychological needs.  Our goal is to get you the parenting time you deserve to positively influence your child’s life and create great moments together in Wyckoff, Newark, Hackensack, Jersey City, South Orange, Hoboken, Bayonne, Wayne, West Orange, and throughout NJ.

If you need help with your custody case, call us today at (973) 233-4396 or fill out a contact form.  You and your child deserve excellent representation, and we can provide it.


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