A number of factors will affect the award of child custody in New Jersey case, including some obvious factors like the fitness of the parents, the needs of the child, and the relationship of the parents with the child. In addition, a less considered but no less important factor that a court will consider is any history of domestic violence in the family. To best understand how domestic violence affects child custody, we must first understand what domestic violence is and how child custody is awarded before we can put the two pieces together.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is the commission of a certain underlying act on another by a person who has a close relationship with that other person. The close relationship may be between spouses, former spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, or some other family members. The acts that constitute domestic violence include, but are not limited to, assault, harassment, stalking, and homicide.
THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD STANDARD – CHILD CUSTODY
If you read anything about child custody in the state of New Jersey you will probably see the phrase “the best interest of the child” more times than you can count. That is because “the best interest of the child” is the standard that a New Jersey court will apply to issues of child custody. That means that when a court must decide an issue of child custody, the guiding principle that it will make a determination based upon is what it feels is in the best interest of the child. To many, what constitutes “the best interest of the child” is a bit vague. For this reason, we must look to established New Jersey case law that provides examples of what the best interest of the child may be.
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER: HOW DOES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECT CHILD CUSTODY
A provision of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence statute states that when considering temporary custody of a child, the court will presume that the best interests of the child is served by an award of custody to the non-abusive parent. This presumption means that the court will begin with assuming that the custody of the child should go to the non-abuser, though the statute does not require that custody go to that parent if other factors indicate the other parent will best serve the needs of the child. However, a parent convicted of domestic violence will have a difficult time of obtaining custody of a child because overcoming the burden of a domestic violence conviction in obtaining permanent child custody is very difficult.
A domestic violence conviction has serious implications on the custody of children. If your family is dealing with a child custody case and a domestic violence situation is involved it is important to speak with an attorney. If you have any questions concerning domestic violence and child custody call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen, at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation regarding your case today.
N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29 (B)(11)
New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991