Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law in New Jersey
At Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law in Somerville, New Jersey residents can get the advice and advocacy they need to handle family law challenges. Ms. Wagner has more than 25 years of experience and offers personalized representation in divorces, custody disputes and other types of domestic matters, providing prompt, clear responses to common questions such as:
- What is the definition of marital property?
- At what age will a judge consider a child’s preferences in a custody matter?
- What is the definition of an unfit parent in New Jersey?
- What are my rights as a father in a custody dispute?
- What is considered parental neglect in New Jersey?
Assets obtained by either spouse during the course of a marriage are considered marital property. It does not matter which individual earned the income or has legal title to the particular asset. Marital property is divided between the parties during a divorce, either through a settlement or a judge’s decision. If a property division matter does go to court, New Jersey’s equitable distribution law means that assets and debts are allocated based on what the judge thinks is fair. It will not necessarily be a 50-50 split. Assets owned individually by one spouse prior to the marriage are separate property and return to that individual upon divorce. You can also negotiate a premarital agreement that classifies specific items as separate property.
Under the relevant statute, a child must be of “sufficient age and maturity” to have their preference considered during a judge’s custody determination. No specific age is given and even if the youth has the requisite maturity, the judge might not honor their wishes.
After a breakup, parents frequently disagree about the best way to raise their child. Sometimes these conflicts can escalate into an allegation that a co-parent is unfit. However, New Jersey law states that a parent is only legally unfit if their conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child. If you’re thinking about making this type of allegation, you should realize that you will need to point to specific incidences of improper parenting and provide evidence as to how it harmed your son or daughter.
New Jersey law does not draw any distinction between mothers and fathers in custody matters, though men and their attorneys should guard against conscious and unconscious bias about parenting roles. The law promotes custody and visitation arrangements that enable both fathers and mothers to maintain frequent, meaningful contact with their children. If you’re a father seeking primary residential custody, you should speak with your lawyer about how to demonstrate that your home is the best place for your son or daughter to spend most of their time.
Regardless of their relationship status, mothers and fathers have certain legal obligations, which include a noncustodial parent’s duty to pay child support. This is a fairly straightforward requirement, but when one parent accuses the other of neglect, the situation can become much more complex. State law says neglect exists when someone with custody or control of a child willfully fails to provide food, clothing or maintenance for a child. Failing to send a child to school, get them medical attention or take other measures necessary for their well-being also constitutes neglect.