Covid-19 Update:

The Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. is taking a safe but proactive approach to the Coronavirus situation in our law practice. We are working every day to represent our clients. We are offering frontline healthcare workers at CentraState free Simple Wills. To read more please Click Here

The days ahead may be a challenge. But we will continue to work to take care of our client’s cases and to take on new matters and clients. We will simply manage your case in less traditional, more technology-driven ways, that are safer for your health and ours.

Please stay healthy and contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your case or a new matter for us to consider.

Andrew Bestafka, Monmouth County Divorce Lawyer

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Divorce, Custody & Family Law

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What You Need to Know About Gaining Custody of a Child in New Jersey

The most gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking, and stressful part of a divorce is the battle for custody of your child. The stakes are incredibly high, and understanding the laws and regulations surrounding child custody requires the help of an experienced family law attorney.

Understanding New Jersey Custody Laws

According to New Jersey Statute 9:2-4 it is in the public interest of the state that both parents of the child share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing. Under the law, both parents have equal rights to this. Furthermore, it is the job of the court to rule in the best interest of the child.

There are two types of custody that you will need to understand: the first type is physical custody. Physical custody (often also called residential custody) is where the child or children physically live. The second type of custody is legal custody. Legal custody is the ability to make decisions for the child. This includes where they go to school, what their extracurricular activities are, major medical decisions, and religious decisions. Legal custody of a child also gives you access to their medical and educational records.

To win sole legal custody, you must demonstrate, with evidence, that the other parent will not make decisions that are in the child’s best interest.

What Is Taken into Account?

There are many factors that a judge will take into account when making a decision about who gets custody. According to New Jersey Statute 9:2-4 they include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate with each other.
  • Whether there is any history of a parent being unwilling to offer parenting time to the other parent without reason.
  • The relationship between the child, siblings, and parents.
  • The preference of the child, if they are old enough, will be considered.
  • If there is a history of abuse or neglect on the part of a parent or both parents, it will be evaluated.
  • How well each parent can meet the needs of the child will be considered.
  • The stability of the home a parent would/does provide.
  • The educational opportunities in the home the parent provides.
  • The proximity of the parents’ homes.
  • The behavior of the parents before/during the separation with regard to child care.
  • The employment of each parent and its time demands.

You may note in this list that, unless you are pursuing sole custody as a way to prevent your child from being in a dangerous or abusive situation, communication and collaboration with your spouse is important. Remember that the goal is to create the best possible parenting situation for the child, not ‘win’ your custody case.

Even if you aren’t pursuing full custody, it is helpful to understand these considerations as they will help you develop a plan for co-parenting that is in your child’s best interest.

When Is Sole Custody Granted?

The state of New Jersey is motivated to have both parents share responsibility for their children. However, sole custody will be granted if it can be proven that either the parents are unable to communicate, collaborate, and agree on major decisions for the child or one parent is abusive, neglectful, or absent.

If two parents are unable to agree on significant issues like medical care or education, and cannot resolve the disagreement, it is appropriate to seek sole custody. In this case, you must prove that you make better decisions for the child and are more dedicated to acting in the child’s best interest.

Naturally, if one parent is abusive or neglectful, sole custody might be granted. It is important to note, however, that limited parenting time with the abusive parent may still be granted by the court.

How to Present an Effective Case

When you’re thinking about your child and how you parent them, you might have tons of examples in your head about poor choices your spouse made, or things they said that is evidence they should not have custody. While these things matter, memory and ‘he said she said’ doesn’t hold much water in a court. It is critical that you gather evidence. Whether it’s texts, emails, documents, voicemails, attendance records, doctor’s notes, or even notes from friends and family, concrete items are always more powerful and persuasive than just testimony.

Call Us Today

New Jersey custody laws are complex. If you are entering a divorce and subsequent custody battle with your spouse, it is critical that you contact a lawyer. Call the Monmouth County divorce attorneys of Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. at (732) 898-2378 today. We are here to help you fight for your child’s best interest and guide you through all the intricacies of New Jersey child custody law.



Can I Text My Child When They Are with My Ex?

The rise of cell phones has put a new and unique spin on custody agreements. In an age when it seems everyone has access to a cellphone, even children, what are the rules that separated parents need to play by? It can be hard to know what is and isn’t acceptable behavior when it comes to texting and messaging your children when they are with your ex-partner.

 

Before you hit send on your text message, consider talking to an experienced family law attorney first. At Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., we can review your custody agreement and advise you on what may or may not be acceptable communication. In short, can you text your child? Yes. Are there instances where texting could interfere with your custody arrangement? Potentially, yes. In the meantime, consider some of these points when texting with your children when they are not with you.

 

Respect Everyone’s Time 

 

If you are following a court-ordered custody agreement, chances are you have quality time with your kids, and your partner has theirs. While it is perfectly normal to want to know how your child is doing and what they are up to, try to be respectful of your ex-partner’s time. Too many calls or text messages could begin to interfere with their custody time and put a strain on your ex-partner’s relationship with the kids. In effect, this can put even more of a strain on your relationship with your ex. It also has the potential to trigger another court appearance.

 

Do Not Message Your Child About Your Problems 

 

If your child is with their other parent, resist the urge to use your child as a go-between. A child is not a tool or communication device. Do not text your child telling them to tell your ex something. If you need to get in touch with your ex about something, use the appropriate means of communication.

 

In the same vein, do not text your child while they are with your ex-partner about your problems or issues. Never send degrading, mean-spirited, or hurtful messages about your former partner or their parenting style. These text messages can sour your child’s relationship with their other parent. They can also cause the courts to reexamine your custody arrangement. While messages can be deleted, the data is not gone forever. Never send harassing, obscene, or angry text messages, ever.

 

Consider a Communication Schedule 

 

Every parent worries about their child when they are not in plain view. If you are anxious about being separated from your child, talk to your ex-spouse about a communication schedule. Agree on setting aside some time each day for you to communicate with your child through calls, video conferencing, or texting. A calling or texting schedule can help you feel more at ease about the custody transition. It may also help ease tensions between you and your ex since you each know what to expect, and there are no surprises.

 

Do Not Tamper with Your Child’s Phone 

 

If you miss your child and want to stay in contact with them while they are away, think about how your ex-spouse feels. They may also want to text message their child. Never tamper with your child’s phone while they are in your custody. Do not delete messages or calls, and do not remove the phone’s battery, rendering them unreachable.

 

Don’t Put Your Child in the Middle 

 

If you are having issues communicating with your child, or need to reach your ex about a particular issue and are finding it difficult, talk to your lawyer. Do not put your child in the middle of a cell phone dispute or turn them into the go-between. Reach out to an experienced family law attorney and lay out your issues. If you have evidence of harassing messages, ignored calls or messages, or other communication problems, your attorney can help you sort them out.

 

In some situations, communication problems may result in another court appearance or a modification to your custody agreement. Protect yourself and your child and get an attorney involved as soon as you feel something isn’t right.

 

Contact a Highly Experience Family Law Attorney Today 

 

You have the right to communicate with your child. However, your ex has the right to a relationship with their child as well. Navigating custody agreements and communication issues in the age of cell phones is challenging. It often means striking the right balance between disinterested and overzealous.

 

If you need help managing custody or communication issues post-divorce, talk to a skilled family law attorney today. The office of Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. can help you pursue a positive outcome for your situation. Call us at (732) 898-2378 right away.



What Determines Child Custody In New Jersey?

Divorce is unpleasant enough for all parties, but it can be twice as hard when there are children involved. Child custody discussions are never enjoyable, but there are ways to make the process flow as smoothly as possible.

Custody and Support

In New Jersey, child custody is handled separately from child support. Support is based upon many factors, including the earning ability of the parents, the number of children, and the standard of living.

When custody, or visitation, is determined under New Jersey law, and there are fourteen enumerated factors a judge must consider. These factors include:

  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to communicate with the other and to encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a safe, stable home environment
  • The child’s relationship to each parent and to their siblings
  • Each parent’s geographic location relative to the other and to the child’s school and friends
  • The child’s own preference
  • Any history of domestic abuse

In New Jersey, as in all states, the judge must consider the best interests of the child first and foremost. The old “maternal preference” no longer applies in custody cases, except in instances of infants.

Other Considerations

The parent who has primary physical custody of the child is the “custodial parent.” This refers to the parent with whom the child spends the most time, even if only by one day. The other parent is the “non-custodial parent.” These terms principally have to do with the child’s address.

When a parent is granted “legal custody,” that means they are responsible for making decisions involving the child’s medical, educational, religious, and other activities. Unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, courts award parents joint legal custody. This means that both parents have an equal right to make decisions about their child and should consult one another before making important decisions.

In all but the most extreme cases, courts award physical custody to both parents equally. The court will try to grant custody with the minimum possible disruption to the child’s routine. Typically, parents find it expedient to trade weeks, which lets the child maintain their school and social schedule without too much alteration.

In unusual situations, such as when a parent lives a long way from the other, then the parents and child can make alternative arrangements. For instance, the child may spend the school year with one parent and summers and holidays with the other.

When Parents Agree

Ideally, parents understand that the custody arrangement must be whatever is best for the child. It may not be the best option to have two separate bedrooms and two separate homes every other week. If both parents are agreeable to different arrangements, they may create any setup they like.

The court has to step in only when parents cannot or will not agree.

When the Child Disagrees

A child’s opinion is considered by the court under certain conditions. The judge must consider the child’s mental age and emotional status. A child under eight is presumed to be too young to state a preference, although family court judges will often agree to speak to the child privately to ensure they understand what is happening.

Between the ages of 9 and 17, a child may make a preference known. Although the judge is not bound to follow it, there should be consideration given. A child who says they want to stay at their mom’s during the week because the downstairs neighbors at their dad’s place are so loud that studying is impossible is making a good point.

When a child suddenly refuses to abide by a custody agreement, it could be a sign that something is wrong. There may be problems with one of the parents, such as abuse or neglect, or one parent may be attempting to alienate the child’s affections for the other parent. Or it could have nothing to do with either parent. Parents and judges should avoid jumping to conclusions in these situations.

Final Determinations

Parents can amend their custody agreements as their lives change. As children get older, their needs for parental support change, their interests and friends change, so the time they spend with their parents will be different.

When this happens, parents should consult their attorneys about having an amendment added to the original agreement. This protects everyone’s interests and prevents anyone from claiming later that they never agreed to alterations of visitation, vacation plans, or other major changes.

If you’re contemplating divorce, or if you’ve already divorced but are having difficulties with the custody arrangements previously made, call Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. at (732) 898-2378 today. We are experienced in all things related to child custody, and we will advise you about your legal options. Don’t suffer through these difficult times alone. Our child custody attorneys stand ready to take on your issues and help you do what’s best for your kids.



Two Homes, One Childhood: Exploring Co-parenting with an Ex

In the recently-released Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime, psychologist Dr. Robert Emery discusses the intricacies of raising children in separated households. Dr. Emery has over 35 years of experience in studying child psychology and how it is affected by divorce.

In Two Homes, One Childhood, Emery discusses the immense emotional toll a divorce can take on parents and how to avoid the same emotional toll it can take on children. He discusses concepts key to maintaining a healthy environment for kids, such as being open to sharing time and clear communication between parents. Emery also encourages parents to develop parenting plans that they can continually work on and alter to accommodate growing kids.

Emery is nationally recognized for his research as well as his other book on parenting, The Truth about Children and Divorce, published in 2004.

While divorces can take a toll on children, they certainly do not have to. The lawyers at Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., have long dedicated themselves to arranging child custody agreements most beneficial to the children. Contact our Monmouth County office at (732) 898-2378 to discuss your case with our child custody lawyers.



Several states move towards shared custody reform

According to a recent press release from the National Parents Organization, lawmaking representatives from twenty states are endeavoring to enact changes to child custody arrangements that alienate the noncustodial parent in order to create situations that support the development of relationships between the child and both parents. This push for shared custody reform comes after several studies published evidence that children of divorced parents flourish in arrangements wherein parents share around thirty-five percent of the parenting duties.

This reform is excellent news for fathers who struggle seeking custody of their children, as a certain gender bias that leads judges to place children with their mother has dominated family courts for many years. However, a recent study from Arizona State University found that the majority of public opinion goes against actual laws regarding child custody and support. With so many states leaning towards reform, though, it looks like shared custody is trending towards the new normal among divorced parents these days.

The attorneys at the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., in Monmouth County may represent you throughout your child custody negotiations. Call us at (732) 898-2378 today to learn more.



100K signatures reached in White House petition over child custody

Actress Kelly Rutherford’s petition to the White House over a child custody dispute has reached the 100,000 signatures required for it to be addressed by the administration, according to a report by The Washington Post on May 13.

Two days after Mother’s Day, the actress was able to secure 100,000 signatures for her campaign, warranting the Obama administration to address the custody battle over her two kids, 8-year-old son Hermes and 5-year-old daughter Melrose. The actress is embroiled in an ugly child custody dispute with her ex, German businessman Daniel Giersch, who has been residing in France with the children after a judge granted him custody in April 2012. Giersch is not permitted to reenter the country after losing his visa in 2009 due to their split, and Rutherford has to travel repeatedly to France to see her children.

Being involved in a child custody dispute can be very stressful. To seek legal help in securing your kid’s welfare at this crucial time, the legal team at the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., might be able to help. To learn more about how we may work on your behalf, call our Monmouth County office at (732) 898-2378 today.



Actress Hilary Duff in child custody battle with NHL’s Mike Comrie

After a long bout of separation and speculation on whether or not Hilary Duff and ex-hockey star Mike Comrie would ever get back together, the couple finally decided on divorce as the best option.

Comrie and Duff both acknowledge the existence of a prenuptial agreement that will make sorting out property and financial issues much easier, but deciding on a custody agreement for their 3-year-old son, Luca, might be more of a challenge, TMZ reported on April 22.

When Duff filed for divorce back in February, she petitioned for primary physical custody of their son, requesting that Comrie’s access be limited to visitation rights. According to sources connected with the actress, she is concerned about Comrie’s partying lifestyle interfering with his abilities as a parent. However, Comrie isn’t going to give in without a fight and responded to Duff’s divorce petition by demanding joint custody.

Contention over child custody is often one of the most difficult and complicated aspects of a divorce, but the lawyers at the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., are knowledgeable about family law, understand the emotional complexity and high stakes of child custody issues, and are prepared to help. For more information, please call our offices at (732) 898-2378.



Jeremy Renner to share physical and legal custody of his daughter

Canadian model Sonni Pacheco and American Hustle actor Jeremy Renner have come to terms for child custody and support of their 2-year-old daughter, according to a report by People on April 1.

Renner will get joint legal and physical custody of his daughter Ava, despite Pacheco’s request for primary custody. The 44-year-old actor has also been ordered to pay $13,000 a month in child support. However, the report also revealed that the Canadian model will not be receiving any spousal support from the actor.

Last December, Pacheco filed for divorce against Renner, claiming the two had irreconcilable differences. The ex-couple was married for 10 short months.

Filing for a divorce can be especially difficult given the legal issues that are often fraught with emotion. As such, enlisting the guidance and expertise of a compassionate family law attorney could help you safeguard your rights and interests during this crucial time. To learn more about filing for a divorce in Monmouth County, speak with a legal representative at the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., by calling (732) 898-2378 today.



New Jersey man arrested for violating child custody agreement

According to authorities, 36-year-old New Jersey resident Kristopher Dohm was recently arrested in Florida, along with a man from Tennessee’s most wanted list, after violating the terms of his child custody agreement. Authorities were first contacted after Dohm failed to take his two sons back to their mother’s house in Roxbury Township, instead taking them to Florida, which violated the terms of his custody agreement.

Over a month later, Dohm and his friend were both arrested at the Royal Palm Inn in New Port Richey, Florida. Both of Dohn’s sons were safe and were placed in protective custody while their mother traveled to Florida to meet them.

Dealing with custody violations is an overwhelming experience, and one that many parents are unsure how to handle. Fortunately, help is available. If your child’s other parent is failing to adhere to the terms of your court-ordered custody or visitation agreement, the experienced Monmouth County child custody lawyers at the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., know what it takes to make sure that child custody agreements are adhered to, and we’re ready to put this experience to work for you. Call us today at (732) 898-2378 to see what we can do for you.



Slash ends marriage from wife of 13 years

Former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash pulled the plug on his marriage with wife Perla Ferrar on December 30, according to an online report by The Daily News.

Slash submitted legal documents in Los Angeles requesting to end his 13-year marriage with Ferrar due to irreconcilable differences. Slash is asking for joint physical and legal custody of their children, London, 12, and Cash, 10.

Court papers indicated that the couple had already separated by June 15. Slash previously filed for divorce in 2010 but withdrew his petition two months after.

The emotional impact and the practical concerns brought about by divorce can make it difficult for divorcing couples to reach resolutions that would be suitable for all parties concerned. As such, the guidance of a compassionate and seasoned divorce attorney could be beneficial to successfully navigate through this legally intricate process. For your divorce needs in Monmouth County, seek the help of our legal team at the Law Office of Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq., by calling (732) 898-2378 today.