The Trotto Law Firm, PC is highly skilled in assisting any client with custody matters. The initial determination of custody – the first time the parents go to court and obtain a custody order - is the most important part of the custody process. The judge must determine what custodial arraignment is in the best interests of the children.
The children are represented by their own attorney, the Attorney for the Child (formerly known as the Law Guardian). The Attorney for the Child is the child’s attorney and must advocate for the child’s best interests.
Joint Custody versus Sole Custody. The court may award the parties joint custody or one party sole custody. Joint custody is where both parents jointly make major decisions on behalf of the children: educational and medical. Sole custody is where one parent makes all of the major decisions for the children without consulting the other parent. A judge will grant a parent sole custody only when the other parent is unfit or absolutely refuses to cooperate with the other parent regarding the welfare of the child.
Residency. Residency determines where the children will live. The custodial parent is the parent who has primary residence of the children. The children’s primary residence is where the children reside for the majority of the time. The other parent, the non-custodial parent, has periods of temporary residence or visitation with the children – such as every other weekend and time during the week. In some instances, the court will grant or the parties will reach an agreement for shared residency where the children spend 50% of their time with each parent.
Grandparents Visitation. The law provides grandparents with the right to petition the court for visits with their grandchildren when the parent of the child (the grandparent’s child) is not available to bring the child to the grandparents or if the court feels equity (fairness) should be granted to the grandparents to visit with their grandchild. Common examples of grandparents attaining visits is when a parent is in the military, deceased or otherwise not available to the children and grandparents.
Relocation. In some instances the custodial parent will need to relocate with the children to another county or state. In a first determination of custody, the court will look to what is in the best interest of the child and relocation is merely one factor that the court considers. In matters where there is an existing order of custody and a parent is seeking to modify an existing order to be permitted to move away with the children, the Court applies the Tropea factors which are: the relocations effect on the meaningful relationship between the child and non-relocating parent; how the children’s lives will be enhanced emotionally, economical and educationally by the move; and what is in the best interest of the child.
Third Party Custody. Some situations may arise where a non-parent, such as an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or friend is trying to obtain custody of a child from their parents. The non-parent must prove that extraordinary circumstances exist to grant them custody of the children – the parents are unfit or abandoned the children.