In New Jersey again, we start with the premise that both parents are equally entitled to have custody of the children. The court wants to know that the children are safe in the case of both of their parents. If both of their parents are impaired, the court will normally look to other means for securing the children’s safety that may be the neither of the parents has custody. Sometimes that happens by virtue of a grandparent or an aunt or uncle coming in and filing an application seeking a temporary order of custody. And usually it’s almost always done as a temporary order. Because the goal is always to get the addicted parent or the mentally impaired parent to a point of safety that he or she can then resume the role as parent. If that can’t happen in a short-term period,sometimes the parties will consent to have a third party be the caregiver for the children. The worst case scenario is always that the state becomes aware that one or both of the parents is addicted or has a mental health concern that puts the children in jeopardy.
When that happens, DCPP or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency is going to be notified and become involved. And at some point, DCPP is going to remove the children from both of the parents and place the children elsewhere. The first preference is to have the children placed with relatives and in those circumstances, you still have the guillotine of the state’s protected power over the child involved. This means that once the child has been removed from the parents, the parent’s effectively have one year before we’re going to move toward a more permanent arrangement for the children’s custody.
But in circumstances where both parties agree, they can sometimes advert that by having the children granted temporary custody to a relative. But either way the court is not going to simply allow the lesser of the two evils of two impaired parents to have the children. In fact, the first concern ourselves is what is safe for the children.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com