Determining the Best Interest of the Children in Monmouth County

If you are a parent who has been involved in the court system to any degree, then you probably have heard the term “Best Interest of the Child.”

This term is an essential part of the family law vocabulary in Monmouth County, and a term that a Monmouth County family lawyer will use almost on a daily basis. Contact an attorney to understand the best interest of the child as it pertains to your Monmouth County family law case.

The Best Interest Standard

Whenever there is a child involved in the court system, whether it be because there are allegations of abuse and neglect towards the child, or because the parents are attempting to reach a custody decision, the best interest of the child standard should be in the mind of every person involved in the case.

While the law always attempts to provide an exacting definition and set or circumstances that will meet a certain standard, this is not quite the case when it comes to the best interests of the child standard in Monmouth County.

This is because what is in the best interest of one child in Monmouth County may not be in the best interest of another child, and therefore it is important for a parent to realize that determining what is in the best interests of the child and children through the court’s eyes will depend on the facts and circumstances of a given case and of a given family.

However, this does not mean that a parent is without guidance as to what a judge will consider when they are determining what is in the best interest of a child. A judge will evaluate some of the following factors when determining if something is in the best interest of a child when a judge is making a determination as to custody:

  • Physical Health and Safety
  • Emotional needs of the child
  • Co-parenting abilities and communication skills
  • Practical considerations

A court can consider numerous other factors when they are determining what is in the best interest of a child. However, it is important to note that a judge must look at all factors and should not enter an order merely on the better interest of the child. Meaning that where there are two parents and one parent may live in a neighborhood where the child’s best friend lives, the court should not take this into consideration as a determinative factor and should examine the other parent’s living situation and neighborhood equally.

The Best Interest Test

In some cases, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) who is responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of child abuse and neglect will become involved in a family’s life.

Despite the constitutional rights a parent has to raise their children, in some cases the state can remove a child from their parent and terminate a parent’s rights to their child.  In cases where the state is moving for termination of a parent’s rights they must prove four elements [N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a).]:

  • Endangerment of the child's health and development by the parental relationship
  • Unwillingness or inability of the parent to provide a safe and stable home for the child and harm to the child caused by the delay in permanent placement
  • Diligent efforts by DCPP to reunite the child and parent
  • Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good to the child

The best interest test elements overlap with each other and provide the comprehensive standard for deciding what is in the best interest of a child. 

No single element will prove that a parent should have their parental rights terminated, however, each of these elements has been designed by the legislature and judges to promote and protect children in the state.

Contact a Lawyer

A Monmouth County family lawyer can help you determine what is in the best interest of the child in your family law case. A dedicated lawyer will work closely with you to make the best case possible and ensure your rights as a parent are protected.