Trenton, NJ - Supreme Court: Child Custody Doesn't Have to be Decided Before a Judge
Trenton, NJ - Couples getting a divorce can decide who gets custody of their children outside of court through mediation, the state Supreme Court said today.
The unanimous decision expands on a 1997 ruling by New Jersey’s highest court that lawyers acting as mediators can help couples resolve disputes over alimony.
“Just as parents ‘choose’ to decide issues of custody and parenting time among themselves without court intervention, they may opt to sidestep the judicial process and submit their dispute to an arbitrator whom they have chosen,” wrote Justice Virginia Long, for the court.
A lower court previously ruled custody must be decided before a judge in court because those decisions can be appealed. Agreements made through a mediating lawyer are binding.
Couples who want to settle those issues outside of court in the future must fully understand how mediation works and be recorded through the process as they would be in court, the Supreme Court said.
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