Determining the Best Interests of the Child in Hackensack

In most proceedings related to divorce or legal separation, the family Court will defer to the preferences of the parties involved in the case if they are able to come to an agreement. The Court will generally only intervene if it finds that the preferences of the parties are clearly not in the best interests of the child. Therefore, when it comes to child custody, the Court will always have the final say whether the parties can agree or not, and it will make decisions based on what is known as the best interests of the child standard.

Determining the best interests of the child in Hackensack in the context of child custody proceedings can be straightforward in some situations and extremely complex in others. Either way, representation from a skilled child custody attorney can make a huge difference in your ability to fight for your own rights and interests during a custody case without infringing on the best interests of your child.

What Do Courts Assume to Be in a Child’s Best Interests?

For many decades in the 1800s, Courts rarely granted divorces, and when they did, they almost always gave fathers full custody over their children. Starting in the early 1900s, many Courts started ruling in the opposite way, under the assumption that mothers were more suited for childcare and should generally be granted full or primary custody, giving fathers very little visitation. This assumption, which came to be known as the “tender years doctrine,” persisted through the 1900s. It was only toward the end of the 20th century that most Courts, including those in New Jersey, overruled the tender years doctrine and began considering the rights of each parent equal and making decisions based on what is best for children.

The best interests of the child standard—codified in N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4(a)—is a modern-day middle ground between these two prior extremes, as it is based on the assumption that it is in a Hackensack child’s best interests to maintain consistent and meaningful relationships with both of their parents whenever possible. In practice, this means the Court generally awards joint legal custody (major decision-making power) and joint physical custody to both of a child’s parents unless a significant amount of evidence indicates that such an arrangement will harm the child more than it will benefit them. To be clear, however, this approach does not mean that there is a legal presumption of joint physical custody in New Jersey like there is in some other states.

Factors the Court Uses to Establish a Child’s Best Interests

The Court has a substantial amount of leeway to decide what should or should not inform its determination of what a child’s best interests are in relation to a child custody proceeding in Hackensack. N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4(a) provides a list of specific factors the Court must consider when making a child custody decision, including but not limited to:

  • Any history of domestic violence or child abuse by either or both parents
  • Each parent’s willingness to communicate and cooperate with the other to ensure their child’s needs are met
  • What relationship the child has with each of their parents, as well as siblings, local community members, and school teachers, if applicable
  • How stable the home environment provided by each parent will be
  • Unique educational, emotional, or medical needs of the child
  • How much time each parent spent with the child prior to separation, and the quality of that time
  • What responsibilities each parent’s job will likely impose on them and how that might affect childcare obligations

Representation from a capable family law attorney can be key to understanding how a particular Court might approach these factors and emphasize certain factors over others in pursuit of a favorable custody decision.

A Hackensack Child Custody Attorney Can Further Explain How Determining the Best Interests of the Child Works

Determining the best interests of the child in Hackensack can be a surprisingly subjective process when the Court puts it into practice. For that reason, guidance from capable legal counsel is vital to protecting both your interests and your child’s best interests during child custody proceedings.

A seasoned family law attorney from Moskowitz Law Group can discuss your options with you in detail during a private initial consultation. Schedule yours by calling today.

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