NJ Fathers Challenge Constitutionality of "Best Interests of the Child"

North Carolina Courts, like many other states, seek to resolve issues of child custody by using the standard of “the best interests of the minor child/children”. A group of fathers in New Jersey seek to challenge the constitutionality of the “best interests” standard in a class action lawsuit against five New Jersey family court judges.

The New Jersey fathers allege violations of the constitutionally-protected fundamental right to the care, custody, and control of their children. To terminate a parent’s constitutionally-protected right to the care, custody, and control of his or her children, there must be notice of the attempt to terminate that right, an evidentiary hearing on the matter, and a finding by a court of competent jurisdiction that the parent is either: (a) unfit to act as a parent; or (b) has voluntarily waived their parental rights.

The New Jersey fathers contend in their lawsuit that the use of the “best interests of the minor child” standard gives family court judges too much discretion to decide the parental roles and the decision-making authority of parents with respect to their child/children. Further, they argue that using the “best interests of the minor child” standard allows family court to significantly reduce, and in some cases eliminate, a parent’s role in a child’s life without first showing that the parent is unfit and that the family court process often results in minimal notice of the other parent’s attempts to significantly alter the custody relationship.

You can read more about the New Jersey lawsuit at: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/dads_sue_new_jersey_family_court_judges_claim_best_interest_of_the_child_st

In a North Carolina Child Custody case, the court is required to make a determination on what the judge believes to promote the best interests and welfare of the minor child. North Carolina General Statute 50-13.2 requires that all Child Custody Orders include findings of fact made by the court which support the determination of what is in the best interest of the child.

While the concept of the “best interests of child” is vague, the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have held that the court’s primary concern in a custody case is what will best benefit the child rather than what benefits either parent or other family members. The best practice in a child custody case is to give the court as much information possible about the child and each parent’s involvement with the child. Topics often addressed involve education, medical care, living environment, emotional support, and issues of concern about either parent’s ability to fulfill his or her parental responsibilities. After accessing all of the evidence presented, the judge will determine in his or her opinion what child custody ruling best promotes the welfare of the minor child.

Despite the challenge in New Jersey, for now and the foreseeable future, North Carolina will continue to use the “Best Interest of the Child” Standard remains as the guiding principle for making decisions on child custody. If you have any questions about your custody rights, please contact us today at (704) 810-1400 to schedule a consultation.

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