One of the most challenging aspects of divorce can be addressing the issue of child custody. In some cases, parents are able to work out an arrangement amicably to ensure that children are able to benefit from the influence of both parents along with a dependable schedule that builds stability into their lives. However, disputes over custody can be frustrating, especially if both parents seek to be designated as the primary caregiver.
During divorce proceedings, parents may be directed to seek assistance from a mediator for the family court in order to work out arrangements for custody that will reflect both the needs of the children and the lifestyles of the parents. In many cases, this mediation allows for differences to be worked out so that an appropriate agreement can be formed. Without an agreement emerging from this process, the court may order an investigation related to the custody issues in question. All parties are interviewed by a probation officer in such a case, and a formal recommendation is then submitted to the court in written form. During a custody hearing, this recommendation carries significant weight.
At the time of a custody hearing, a parent's concerns may be presented by an attorney or personally in front of the judge. Private conversations to address those concerns are not permitted. In some cases, a judge may decide that it would be prudent to speak with one's children. In such a situation, a judge would schedule an interview in chambers or elsewhere, as children are not permitted in court.
A parent facing opposition over child custody arrangements may find that the assistance of a family lawyer ensures that concerns are addressed effectively. Additionally, there may be opportunities to raise serious concerns over certain points during the mediation and investigation aspects prior to actually appearing at a hearing, allowing time for those concerns to be evaluated.
Source: New Jersey Courts, "Divorce/Matrimony", September 29, 2014