A group of New Jersey fathers claiming they received unfair and unconstitutional treatment in child custody court proceedings has now moved forward with a class action suit against five Family Part judges. The justices preside in Mercer, Burlington, Essex, and Hudson counties.
According to a report in the New Jersey Law Journal, the plaintiffs’ complaint outlines claims they lost parental rights after being accused of domestic abuse, incompetence, or other causes, because they were not given sufficient time to address the accusations and retain legal counsel. The fathers are asking that any parent whose custody or parenting time/visitation was reduced by the state receive a hearing within 10 days of the ruling.
As an example of some of the claims made in the suit, one co-plaintiff father cites court proceedings in which he lost custody of his two children after their mother filed an order to show cause requesting full custody. The father alleges that the judge gave him less than two hours’ notice of the proceeding and did not allow him to present evidence to refute the mother’s claims that he was an unfit parent.
Does this case have merit? In New Jersey, family law concerning child custody is written in gender-neutral language, meaning that neither parent is favored under law. What New Jersey law is specific about is stating that all custody matters result in an arrangement that puts the “best interests of the child” first.
Going to court over child custody matters can be some of the most stressful moments any parent will endure. Certainly, in such high-stake matters, obtaining the advice and counsel of a NJ family law attorney is preferable to self-representation, and most times, can be a crucial factor in how well a parent is able to present their case. It is not clear from the way the suit is being reported whether the plaintiffs had pre-existing legal counsel or had been trying to represent themselves and then needed to rush to find an attorney but ran out of time.
We will post updates on this case as more becomes available.
Fathers’ rights, and mothers’ rights, matter. Are you a parent involved in a child custody matter and concerned about your rights? We can help. Please contact us to schedule a confidential one-hour attorney consultation.