Parental Medical Conditions In Custody Matters
Does parental health impact child custody? This question has taken center stage for many couples in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
More than 930,000 New Jersey residents have contracted Coronavirus so far. This has thrown many standing custody arrangements into disarray. It has also raised public debate around ill or injured parents’ ability to care for their children.
But what does the law say on the subject? Here’s what every divorced parent should know about health and custody in New Jersey.
What Is Custody in New Jersey Based On?
In about half of all divorce cases, parents agree on child custody arrangements between themselves. There is no court or other third-party involvement.
When courts do get involved, they apply the national “best interest of the child” standard. They seek to create and invoke custody arrangements that:
- Keep children connected to both parents
- Put children in the most stable and supportive environments available
- Reduce disruption and risk as much as possible
To this end, they primarily evaluate parental:
- Fitness and engagement with the child
- Living situations
- Resources and support
Parental medical conditions can be a factor, but it is rarely the deciding one. To influence court decisions, a parent’s health condition generally must negatively impact their standing on one of the above priority factors such as a living situation or ability to care for the child physically.
Even then, it can often be balanced out by other factors. For example, a parent living with their own parents in a stable environment with ready support would likely find that their personal health issues have no real impact on custody decisions because their ability to provide and care for the child is unaffected.
When Health Challenges Arise
Changes to a parent’s medical condition usually do not impact their custody of kids unless the situation will negatively affect their ability to care for their children long-term.
When that happens, courts tend to favor short-term and reversible changes to custody arrangements. They also prefer changes that maximize consistency and stability for the children. This might mean assigning custody to the custodial parents’ extended family who lives locally rather than a non-custodial parent who lives out-of-state.
Navigating Parental Health and Custody
New Jersey divorce laws don’t inherently discriminate against parents suffering from severe injuries or health conditions. They don’t innately protect parents from the potential adverse effects of poor health on their situations, either.
This creates flexibility for parents to implement temporary modifications to custody arrangements, but it also creates risk. Both formal and informal custody changes can impact parents’ rights under local custody laws, often in unexpected ways.
If you or your former spouse are dealing with a health issue, talk to your lawyer. Do not make any changes to your custody agreement before getting legal counsel. These precautions will help you protect your rights and secure the best possible outcomes for your children.
Help Is Available
Don’t navigate complicated questions of custody in New Jersey alone. Contact Dalena & Bosch today and let our experienced divorce attorneys help you find the answers and support that you need.
Feel free to view a few of our child custody blogs.