How does the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part define an “unfit parent”?

Skilled Family Law Attorneys providing counsel in Child Custody-related Issues in Westfield, Elizabeth, Union, Linden, and the greater Union County Area.

How does the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part define an “unfit parent”?Divorce is a complex and dynamics-laden process, even more so when children are involved. Despite one’s best efforts, attempts to stay amicable and child-centered can implode into many mini-battles. If amiability is out of the question because of the marriage or parenting dynamic that has been threaded over time, having the support of a quality family law attorney is that much more important, so they can represent the best interests of your children and you, and you can focus on orienting to the most aligned next chapter for your family.

Having a skilled legal team is especially important when there is a question about your ex-spouse’s or your own fitness to be a parent. Claims that a parent is unfit to have custody or spend time with their child are serious matters that the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part takes heavily into consideration. The Superior Court’s central goal in custody hearings is ensuring the best interest of the child. The Court considers that it is in a child’s best interest to spend a good deal of time with both parents. However, depending on the context of the relationship of each parent with their child, this may not be the most appropriate choice in support of the best interest of the child. As such, while sometimes parents are able to amicably come to an agreement about the custody arrangement they will share and develop a parenting time agreement that reflects that each will share ample time with the child, sometimes the Court must step in.

What are the types of custody arrangements in New Jersey?

There are three types of child custody arrangements under New Jersey law, which determine the visitation rights that each parent has.

Sole custody

It means that one parent has sole -complete – physical custody of their child. Generally, in a sole custody arrangement, the other parent has some visitation rights. The extent and nature of these rights vary because as noted, the Superior Court: Family Part is committed to protecting the well-being of children as its central priority, and in some cases, while ideally, the child would have extensive interaction with both parents, visitation rights are not appropriate or safe for the child. One example of this would be in the case that one parent has engaged in domestic violence or has a history of drug abuse. Visitation rights can be tripped completely, or they can be limited to supervised visits, in such cases.

Shared physical custody

Is the arrangement in which each parent spends an equal amount of time with their children. This obviously requires the teamwork of the parents to develop a parenting time agreement that coheres with the child’s school and extracurricular schedule, as well as their own schedules.

Residential parent and alternate residential parent agreements

They create a scenario in which one parent is the primary custodial guardian or the one with whom the child lives the most. The other parent is known as the ‘alternate’ and shares lesser custodial time. Often this takes the form of weekends and longer visits with that parent during the child’s school vacations.

What is the definition of an “unfit parent”?

If you or your ex is claiming “unfit parenting,” there is a track towards sole custody opening up, and as such, you must have the expert legal advice to traverse this path with caution and careful consideration. New Jersey law defines an “unfit parent” as someone who is unable to provide a safe space for their child in physical and emotional regards. In addition, this parent’s presence not only does not provide safety, but it creates a risky and potentially harmful environment for the child. This harm could be invoked physically, mentally, or emotionally. Examples of scenarios in which a parent may be considered unfit by the Superior Court: Family Part are their history of violent or reckless behavior, history of addiction, present or prior mental health concerns, or any issues in the past that involve child neglect or abuse. Because some actions of a parent don’t squarely fit into one of the above categories but could be considered a peripheral effect, the judge must carefully determine where a parent poses threat to a child, and where not. As such, having the support of a strong legal team to clearly document your case is absolutely essential in claims of “unfit parenting,” either against you or your child’s other parent.

To ensure that your child’s safety and wellbeing are protected through your custody agreement, it is imperative that you seek the support of a qualified family law attorney.

Contact our Child Custody Attorney for a free consultation

If you are navigating a difficult divorce and custody hearing, let us represent you while you focus on helping your children and yourself transition into a new chapter.

At Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper, Esq, we successfully represent clients across Edison, Clark, Cranford, Rahway, Roselle Park, Elizabeth, and throughout Union County, Garwood, Essex County, and northern Middlesex County.

Let the law offices of Edward S. Cooper be your guide through the difficult and often confusing divorce process. We have the knowledge and the experience to properly advise you. Call us today for a consultation at (908) 481-4625, or fill out a contact form.