Determining the Best Interest of the Child in Bergen County

Unfortunately, children frequently suffer during custody and visitation disputes. A family attorney must advocate for the wishes of the parent that hired them, but not necessarily the children themselves. Your child’s needs, wants, and overall desires may get lost during parenting-time litigation.

Courts must focus on determining the best interest of the child in Bergen County family disputes. These best interest factors control nearly all child custody, adoption, and visitation cases. Understanding the elements applicable to your parenting dispute may help you prepare accordingly.

Child Custody and Best Interest Laws in Bergen County

New Jersey’s statutory code vests family courts with authority to delegate the care, maintenance, custody, and education of minor children whose parents dispute custody. The court must make all such determinations according to the child’s best interest but should consider the child’s current living arrangement during proceedings.  New Jersey Stat. Code § 9: 2-4 sets forth a list of best interest of the child factors a judge must consider before entering a temporary or permanent custody order.

Parent-Child Relationship During Best Interest Investigations

The past and present conduct of the disputing parents, including the children’s relationships with their parents, underlies many of the factors a judge will consider when assessing what is in the child’s best interests. Parenting issues Bergen County courts must analyze when determining the children’s best interests include:

  • The parents’ ability to work together and agree
  • How well the parents cooperate and communicate about the children’s needs
  • The parents’ desires and willingness to accept custody
  • A parent’s past actions in either encouraging or preventing parenting time with the other party
  • Any history of spousal or child abuse
  • The fitness and ability of the parents to care for the child
  • The parents’ employment and business responsibilities
  • The quality of the parent-child relationship before proceedings

With the help of their attorneys, parents may submit pictures, documents, videos, written statements, and witness testimony related to these best interest factors. Generally, no single factor determines custody except severe health and safety concerns.

Objective Best Interest of the Child Factors

Re-arranging or significantly altering a child’s life requires considering more than just the parent-child dynamic. To determine the holistic best interest of Bergen County children, courts must look at several additional factors, including:

  • The child’s school ties and education quality
  • The proximity of the parent’s homes
  • The child’s wishes and desires
  • Sibling relationships
  • Any specific and special needs of the child
  • The overall stability of the child’s home environment
  • The age of the child and the number of children in the home

Children of sufficient age and intellect may express their desires directly to the court. While the court does not have to abide by these wishes, they may resolve best interest disputes in Bergen County.

The Role of Bergen County Guardians ad Litem for Children

In contested custody cases, Bergen County family judges often appoint an independent legal advocate to represent the child’s best interest. These guardians ad litem (GALs) assess each of the above best interest factors through family interviews, documentary evidence, and discussions with the juvenile. GALs would subsequently make written custody and visitation recommendations to the court based on their investigations.

While certified attorneys, GALs do not legally represent the child. Both the parents and child may disagree with a guardian’s final best interest recommendation. A guardian ad litem may then petition the court to appoint a juvenile rights lawyer to represent the child’s direct interest in these circumstances.

Discuss the Best Interests of Your Child in Bergen County

Child custody cases could involve four or more separate legal advocates and may be very complex. Determining the best interest of the child in Bergen County often takes a dedicated team of legal professionals. The difficult custody process attempts to strike a balance between the children’s needs and their parents’ overall desire to move forward. Speak with an experienced attorney right away to learn more about your family’s legal options.

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