5 min read
Can I Get Sole Custody of My Children?
It’s an all too familiar, and heartbreaking, story for many parents: The day comes for your ex to have visitation time with your children, only to have them cry and beg not to have to leave with the other parent.
It’s hard enough to work through a contentious divorce and keep your children happy and well-adjusted. But if your ex isn’t giving your children the safety and security (both physically and emotionally) they need, then you can feel completely powerless.
Add in that you probably got divorced for a very good reason. Those problems with your ex didn’t magically get better when the judge signed off on the divorce decree and you have a tough situation on your hands. So, what do you do when you find yourself in this situation? The answer could very well be to go back to court to attempt to earn sole custody of your children.
Here’s What You Need to Know to Get Sole Custody of Your Children in New Jersey
First, let’s quickly discuss what sole custody really is in legal terms in the courts of New Jersey. Traditionally, there are two forms of custody—legal and physical. With both, you can have custody jointly with your former spouse or solely on your own.
Here’s how these break down:
- Legal custody: With legal custody, the parent makes the major life decisions that impact the child, such as where to go to school, where to live, and what religion they practice. If the legal custody is sole, then one parent makes those decisions. If it’s joint, then the two parents share responsibility for these decisions.
- Physical custody: This basically involves how much parenting time a person has with the child. If you have joint physical custody, then both parents get to spend time with the child. This can be a situation where they rotate physical custody each week, every other weekend, or just during the summer or school breaks.
If both parents spend some time with the child, it’s considered joint custody. Sole custody means that only one parent spends parenting time with the child. The other parent has no parenting time at all.
New Jersey Courts Want What’s Best for the Child
When it comes to determining custody in New Jersey, the law is clearly in favor of both parents sharing the responsibilities. But what really drives the decisions in a custody case is what’s in the best interests of the child. If it’s determined that a parent should have sole legal custody, then he or she will make all the major decisions and the other parent will have no say in the matter. But in order to get sole legal custody, the parent has to prove that their ex is incapable of making decisions that will be in the child’s best interests.
Here’s What’s Considered When Determining the ‘Best Interest’ for Your Child
For you to be able to get sole custody awarded from the New Jersey courts, you’ll need to provide evidence that your ex isn’t capable of giving your child what they need. This may include:
- If your ex is unable to cooperate and communicate with you on parenting matters;
- If your ex has unreasonably denied you parenting time;
- If there’s evidence that your ex has been abusive or committed domestic violence;
- If your child is old enough (and mature enough) to state a preference of who has custody; and
- If your ex has shown that he or she isn’t fit to be a parent.
The court may also look at other issues such as the relationship between the parents and child/children, the closeness of the parents’ homes, and the amount of time a parent can spend parenting because of work responsibilities. Ultimately, if an issue has arisen to call into question whether the parent is acting in the best interest of the child, then the judge will want to hear it.
What You Need in Order to Get Sole Custody
Taking your ex to court to get sole custody is time-consuming, emotionally draining, and financially expensive. It does you no good to anger the other parent only to lose in court and still have to co-parent with them.
So, the first thing to address is, do you have strong evidence? The court has seen a lot over the years and having a co-parent that you don’t agree with, or you feel like isn’t doing what you would do when you have custody of your child, will absolutely not be enough to show the court that you should get sole custody.
Once you’ve determined that there’s neglect, abuse, mental health issues, or substance abuse affecting decisions, or other more serious and documented complaints, you’re ready for the next step: collecting evidence to present to court.
If you plan to present your case in court, you’re going to need more than just supposition and hearsay. You are going to need documentation. This can take the form of school attendance records or medical records if truancy or abuse are at issue. You can also get testimony from impartial third parties such as teachers, social workers, or even private investigators. It may also be necessary to have your own child testify, although this should only be the case if they are mature enough.
You Need Strong Legal Support to Present Your Case to Court
The process of obtaining sole custody isn’t easy. Besides the paperwork that must be submitted properly, there’s also the matter of evidence and how to present it.
Working with an experienced New Jersey family law attorney will ensure you spend less money and time while getting laser-focused guidance to get your documentation submitted. The less time you’re troubled by the case and can keep your children out of the court, the better. A good attorney will also be honest with you about potential outcomes so you can choose the best way forward.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Moorestown, Haddonfield, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.