- The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
- The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
- The interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
- The history of domestic violence, if any, including whether or not to here is an active restraining order on one of the parties. Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, it is presumed that a child’s best interests are served by an award of custody to the non-abusive parent (N.J.S.A. 2C: 25-29(b)(11)).
- The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
- The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision2;
- The needs of the child;
- The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education;
- The fitness of the parents;
- The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
- The extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
- The parents’ employment responsibilities; and
- The age and number of the children.
A New Jersey Family Court will have wide latitude in the awarding of Child Custody in a Motion before the Court. New Jersey Court Rule. 2N.J. Ct. R. 5:8-6 provides that the trial court will have discretion in order to conduct an **“in camera interview of the children” either on its own motion or at the request of either of the litigants https://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/attorneys/assets/rules/r5-8.pdf. In Lavene v. Lavene, (Superior Court App. Div. 1997): “The age of the child certainly affects the quantum of weight that his/her preference should be accorded, but unless the trial judge expressly finds as a result of its interview either that the child lacks capacity to form an intelligent preference or that the child does not wish to express a preference, the child should be afforded the opportunity to make his/her views known.” https://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-published/1977/148-n-j-super-267-0.html
**”In Camera Review”- Most often this refers to hearing or discussions with the judge in the privacy of the Judges Chambers (office) or to a lesser extent, when spectators and jurors have been excluded from the courtroom.
Why Is A New Jersey Private Investigator Critical To Assist In A Child Custody Motion Before A New Jersey Family Court?
When you conference with a New Jersey Family Law Attorney in reference to seeking either an initial Child Custody Order in a contested divorce or a Change of Custody Order because of changed circumstances before a one of the first things this attorney will ask is why the child/children best interests would be served by you having primary physical and/or legal custody. After you verbally explain to this attorney why the child/children are best served being in your custody the lawyer will ask what evidence can you provide to the New Jersey Family Court in order to substantiate your view of the custody status. If you are like many people I have met over the years you might have some compelling evidence but surely not enough for your attorney to be confident in the filing of the Child Custody Motion, in most instances your attorney will recommend you retain a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator to assist you in obtaining additional evidence in support of your Child Custody Motion prior to the filing of the motion in a New Jersey Family Court.
I have previously listed certain factors/elements a New Jersey Family Court will consider in making a decision in awarding Child Custody, although a New Jersey Private Investigator cannot often obtain evidence on all factors under consideration a competent New Jersey Private Investigator can often gather evidence on a multitude of factors the New Jersey Family Court will consider; what follows is examples of how a New Jersey Private Investigator can gather evidence.
Factors or elements the Court will consider:
- Parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child; (A New Jersey Private Investigator can review documents, interview family, friends, coaches, or other adults who might be willing to get involved on this particular factor and whether or not there is cooperation or whether one parent is particularly uncooperative. This can be included into a report that could be entered into evidence).
- Parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse; (As stated above, A New Jersey Private Investigator often reviews documents, interviews family, friends, coaches, or other adults who might be willing to get involved on this particular factor and whether or not there is cooperation or whether one parent is particularly uncooperative. This can be included into a report that could be entered into evidence).
- History of Domestic Violence, if any, including whether or not to here is an active restraining order on one of the parties; Under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, it is presumed that a child’s best interests are served by an award of custody to the non-abusive parent (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-29(b)(11)). (This factor alone is why it is critical the New Jersey Private Investigator you retain has a Law Enforcement Background in a Municipal New Jersey Police Department; this will ensure that he/she is utterly familiar with and has had hands on experience with domestic violence and its victims as well as having had extensive training every year they were employed as law enforcement officers in a municipality. It is quite possible that a New Jersey Family Court would make a decision on a Child Custody matter based soley on the existence of a history of Domestic Violence).
- Safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent; (For the reasons stated above, it is of paramount importance you retain a New Jersey Private Investigator who has Law Enforcement Experience in a New Jersey Municipal Police Department).
- Fitness of the Parents; (A New Jersey Private Investigator can gather evidence of an unfit parent through surveillance and other investigative methods which could include under cover operations, seizing and searching trash for evidence of alcohol or drug abuse in addition to background checks, this is not an exclusive list)
- Extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation; (A New Jersey Private Investigator can assist in gathering of evidence of the quality of time spent with a parent through surveillance. Is a child always being left with a baby sitter or some other alternate care? Who are the people around the child, what are their backgrounds?)
In closing, it is very important to perform your “due diligence” before you hire a New Jersey Private Investigator to assist you in gathering evidence in your Child Custody Case. I recommend that at the very least the very you make two inquiries:
#1- What type of equipment does the Private Investigator have? Does he or she have dedicated Surveillance vehicles where it is possible for the private investigator to remain inside the vehicle? What type of cameras does the private investigator deploy in the field? Does the private investigator provide both time and date stamped video and photographs? What kind of reports does the private investigator provide to you and how often? Does the Private Investigator sub-contract “Your Investigation” out to other private investigators?
#2- Does the private investigator have a website?
One of best measures to utilize in determining the competence of a private investigator you are considering retaining is to check out his or her website. A private investigator who would put up a substandard website online for public consumption is a strongly indicative that the private investigator is lazy, non-caring or they just don’t have the ability to put a professional face to their business; I can assure you that if you retain a private investigation firm with either no website or a substandard website do not think for a moment that the work product you obtain from these investigation firms will be any better then their website.
For more info, please visit our Child Custody page.
About the author: Bob Cowan is the owner of Cowan Investigations a full service New Jersey Private Investigations Firm, Bob is the former Chief of the Jersey City Police Department and has 35 years experience as a police officer.
If you wish to speak with me regarding this article, or if you need a consultation regarding it’s contents please do not hesitate to call me at 732-837-8444, seven days a week 8:00am to 8:00pm.