Child custody and the best interests standard

Child custody is one of the most highly contested divorce legal issues. It is not limited to those who are dissolving their marriages, as parents of children born out of wedlock can also face child custody disputes. Oftentimes in these situations each parent believes they know what is best for their child, but their visions don't always align. When this occurs, the matter can be challenging to negotiate and may be left in the hands of a judge.

When making a child custody or visitation determination, a New Jersey judge will focus on the best interests of the child involved. Many factors play into this best interests determination, including the child's relationship with each parent, the educational opportunities afforded to the child in each household, the presence of any drug or alcohol abuse in each parent's household, and the financial stability of each parent. But that's not all. A court may also consider a child's wishes, if he or she is old enough, and pertinent religious and cultural factors.

With so much to consider, and given the fact that many of these factors are subjective in nature, these matters are open to legal argument. This means that New Jersey parents need to be prepared to gather evidence to support their arguments as to why their position furthers the child's best interests. This may mean gathering educational, medical, and/or criminal records; subpoenaing witnesses; and developing legal arguments that are both aggressive and in anticipation of the other parent's claims.

Presenting these arguments can be a challenging feat, partly because it can be difficult to anticipate the other side's arguments and plan accordingly. Attorneys who are experienced in this area of the law know the common positions that are taken, though, which means that they may be able to adequately represent one's interests, counter any of the other side's arguments, and present a case that furthers the child's best interests.

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