Category Archives: FAQ
FAQ: Do you know this judge?
Family court judges come and go. While we have appeared in every single county in this State, something most lawyers cannot claim, we don’t get too hung up on who the judge is. I cannot think of any cases where we have shifting a major focus of our strategy because of who the judge is. When I draft a custody application, I am speaking not only to the court but to the Appellate Division. A good custody lawyer should always plan for the worse. If we lose the case, the papers have to be set up for the appeal. An appeal is not a do-over but is instead a review of what happened at the trial court level. Thus, if you did not make a proper record as we say, you may not have a good appeal. Thus, while we know many family court judges in New Jersey, this rarely impacts our strategy or the outcome. Our custody attorneys have had great success in front of brand new judges or judges that we have never appeared in font of before. Thus, don’t get too hung up on who the judge is. Focus on selecting a lawyer that works for you.
FAQ: Do I need to hire a lawyer for child custody in New Jersey?
I always make it a point to tell people that while everyone should have a lawyer for any legal matter, I’m not trying to twist their arm to convince them to hire my firm. Our record speaks for itself. Handling any legal matter without a lawyer is just crazy in my opinion. Do a lot of people go to court without representation? Sure but most of these people are from the lower-middle class or below and it is often in the “FD” docket. If you just have no money at all, then this really isn’t a debate. However, if you can hire a lawyer, then you should even if it might be difficult financially. I always use this example: if you need surgery, would you go to the hospital and let the surgeon handle it or would you handle it yourself? Everyone says they would go to the hospital so then why would you not hire a lawyer?
So, while the court will not force you to hire a lawyer, going it alone is often a horrible idea. The system doesn’t always take you serious when you handle your case pro se. Some people fall into a false sense of security in that they go to court without a lawyer and they win. Thus, they go again, and again, etc. However, this is like a game of Russian roulette. Eventually it may catch up to you and when it does, it can be very ugly.
FAQ: What are my custody rights in New Jersey?
I always find this question interesting because as a lawyer, I take everything literally. Answering this question in the literal sense, the answer is often either 1) whatever the court order says or 2) you have the right to file a motion with the court. While the law grants you “rights” the rights are not really able to be exercised without going to court. That is, if you have never been to court before, you have little to no ability to really exercise your rights when it comes to a custody dispute. This is why our family courts are so busy in New Jersey. In order to really establish your rights and get an order to enforce them, you need to go to court. The court order should be as detailed as possible. This will establish your rights to the child.
Of course, you do have natural rights as a parent that the law recognizes. Practically speaking however, it can be impossible to enforce any rights without a court order. Thus, in my opinion, rights that cannot be enforced are not really rights at all. This is always why any changes to custody and parenting time should be set forth in a court order.