Mother's Rights in New Jersey
Going through a divorce where children are involved is always difficult for mothers. Most mothers are used to being the primary caretaker of children from the time that their children are born. This is not to imply of course, that fathers are not equally involved in the care of their children or cannot be the primary caretaker. Emotions conflict when you seek to dissolve the legal union between yourself and your spouse, all the while trying to shield your children from any conflict between you and your spouse. It is paramount to make sure the children can adjust to their changed circumstances with as little difficulty as possible. To prepare for what is ahead, it is best to speak with an experienced attorney who can inform you of your rights as the primary caretaker of your children, including how decisions will be made by the Court to protect the best interests of the children.
What the Law Says About Custody
Prevailing doctrine in New Jersey family law courts is to decide what is in the child's best interests. When considering a child's best interests, the State of New Jersey will look at the age of the child, whether there are multiple children, the home environment and ability to provide for the children of each parent, and even the wishes of the child. In New Jersey, the stated preference of a child 10 years or old can be taken into account. N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) is the statute in this state that affirms the rights of both parents to have "frequent and continuing" contact with their minor children. That means that, although mothers have tended to be favored historically in questions of custody, the law does not guarantee them privilege.
Throughout much of the 20th Century, a common principle applied in custody hearings was the “Tender Years Doctrine”, which theorized that children of a certain age (usually younger than 13) required maternal care most of all, and custody or residence was granted to the mother. While this is no longer the prevailing doctrine in New Jersey or the United States as a whole, some judges may tend to fall back on this thinking.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Rights As a Mother
First and foremost, you will need to have the facts of your case organized and persuasively argued. There may be factors in your case, such as the age of the children, the Father’s previous involvement in caring for the children, the Father’s work schedule and his availability to see the child, etc.
The court requires that both parents prove that the custody arrangement they are proposing is in the child's best interests. Legal counsel is crucial in putting together your case. Your first step should be to contact a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer who is experienced in matters concerning custody and parenting time. At the Law Offices of Sylvia S. Costantino, Esq., LLC, we understand what you are going through and stand ready to help.