Couples often have disputes when going through a divorce, but child custody battles can be especially contentious. When both parents seek custody of the children, New Jersey courts try to determine what will be in a child’s best interests. Parents may be referred to a Family Court mediator who can assist with making a parenting plan or custodial arrangements.
When parents decide on a course of action, the terms of a child custody agreement will be signed by a judge and entered as a court order. When spouses cannot reach an agreement, a custody investigation could occur. A probation officer makes a recommendation to the court after interviewing all parties involved, and a judge gives strong consideration to a recommendation at a custody hearing.
Parents and children usually do not privately speak to a judge at a custody hearing. An attorney can speak on behalf of a client, or one can speak when he or she does not have an attorney. If a judge needs to talk to a child, a separate interview session will be scheduled. Children should not come to court for custody hearings because they cannot witness the court proceedings, and there are no caregivers or play areas in the courthouse.
It is easy to worry when a custody dispute arises, but New Jersey courts generally seek to assure both parents have a relationship with a child or children. Unless it is not in a child’s best interests, both parents will likely still be involved in a child’s life after a divorce. Even if one parent has sole physical custody, both parents might share legal custody and be able to make decisions. If a parent does not have legal or physical custody, he or she may still have visitation rights.
Source: New Jersey Courts, “My spouse and I are both seeking custody of the children. What happens now?“, September 23, 2014