New Jersey Child Custody Lawyer

toddler with parent

Are you in the process of separating from your partner? If you have children in common, reaching a fair child custody agreement is one of the most critical issues you will face. An appropriate custody arrangement is essential for preserving your child’s quality of life while you embark on a new path.

The terms of a child custody agreement are critically important to your family’s well-being, which is why you should work with a knowledgeable attorney who understands the complexities of the law and the consequences at stake. Our child custody attorneys at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman stand ready to guide you through this challenging time, allowing you to focus on what’s best for your family.

Contact our firm today for a confidential case evaluation.

How Our Lawyers Assist with Child Custody Matters

child custody and visitation agreement

The child custody attorneys at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman serving the Princeton area and statewide have decades of experience helping families resolve the issues that matter most. The success we’ve achieved since our founding in 1929 is why we have a local reputation as the go-to firm for local families who need competent, honest, and effective representation.

Our lawyers are deeply familiar with New Jersey’s family law and local court systems. We are prepared to leverage our considerable resources and experience to seek the best outcome in your case. Our attorneys are highly skilled at out-of-court mediation and child custody litigation in court. When your child’s future is on the line, you need a lawyer who can handle anything. The child custody attorneys at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman are prepared to fight for you.

From our clients


You are an incredible advocate.

You fought like hell and were ready to deal with thick and thin in a very conflicted environment.

You put in the hours and then some.

You truly care for your clients, and their well being.

You hung in there till the end and made sure every T was crossed and every condition was thoroughly thought through, considered, explained and documented.

You went the extra mile every step of the way personally, emotionally and professionally.

You were fair and reasonable in your billing.

Best of all, I came to respect and admire you.


I would highly recommend Lydia to any family, friends, & co-workers. I would recommend Lydia is she’s tough as nails, she brings her A-game in service of her clients from beginning to end, and Lydia genuinely cares for the wellbeing of her clients and defends them with integrity, passion and honor alike.  Trust your Instincts, Ask plenty of Questions, If you want a reliable, and hard working, passionate lawyer look no further than Lydia Fabbro Keephart. You will not be disappointed.


I have and will continue to recommend Lydia to whomever can benefit from the services she offers. She is an expert in her field, a true “ally” in every sense of the word.  She is empathetic, and no non-sense. Time is and always was of the essence as I am a very busy physician. Her efficiency and dedication to detail were and are priceless. To this day, some of the best money I’ve spent was retaining Lydia as my attorney. Lydia was always available. She responded to emails at random hours of the day/night and she was able to accommodate my unpredictable and dynamic schedule. I found comfort in knowing that Lydia was by the book. She has a high moral and standards code. No matter how difficult the situation; it’s always important to play by the rules. I really appreciate someone who embodies integrity. I am forever grateful to Lydia and her firm; they helped me transition through a very difficult time. I came out on the other side better, and stronger than ever.


In the matter of my painful divorce after decades of marriage, Lydia not only looked out for my legal interests in a fierce, dedicated way, but she helped teach me the life lessons I need to survive as a strong, happy divorcee.  I will never forget her and I recommend her to anyone who needs to fight for their rights and life after the shock of having your foundation crumble.  You can move on with joy when you have good counsel.


As an international client I thoroughly researched matrimonial attorneys prior to choosing John Hartmann at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman. Mr. Hartmann is excellent in judging matters beforehand and a Master in following through. The firm exceeded my expectations in handling my divorce and post judgement actions, which took place in New Jersey. I would recommend them without hesitation.


I found John Hartmann, Esq. and the law firm of Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman to be extremely professional and well organized. Their knowledge of the landscape of the divorce process was truly impressive. John and his team listen intently, understand the situation and offer practical counsel.


When my wife shocked me with papers for a divorce, I checked with colleagues and learned that I could never find better representation than John Hartmann and his team of family lawyers. My Ex spent far more money on her lawyer than I did and got nothing more than John told me to offer on day one! I can say unequivocally that the bill I received from Pellettieri was the best money I have spent in my life and I would have gladly paid double for the results I got. John and his legal team were there for me every step of the way on a true emotional roller coaster. His reputation as the toughest, most brilliant divorce lawyer on the scene today is well earned and fully matched by his younger partners, associates, and paralegals. The Pellettieri team is second to none!


Mr. Hartmann is a thorough professional with decades of experience. I just had to explain what my expectations were, and Hartmann was able to put together detailed paperwork and backed it with relevant legal references and presented the case in an irrefutable manner. Hartmann’s staff was very diligent in following up every step of the way. Overall, my experience with the Hartmann’s team was very positive and promising. I have recommended Hartmann to several of my friends over the years and would definitely recommend him to friends and family in future.


I was represented by John Hartmann and Nicole Huckerby in a divorce case in which my husband believed I should pay him support even though he closed a successful company and decided he no longer wanted to work. The matter was settled with a favorable outcome for me which my husband then appealed. Not only was my PRA team successful in the trial Court but was also successful in the appeal. PRA is dedicated to obtaining the best result for their clients and as a result I have recommended many friends and colleagues to PRA.


Overview of New Jersey Law on Child Custody Agreements

paper family and gavel

When divorcing spouses file for child custody in New Jersey, the courts typically promote joint custody arrangements on the assumption that having a relationship with both parents is in a child’s best interest. As a result, many child custody arrangements in New Jersey provide for a 50-50 share of custody between parents.

Courts usually deviate from equal custody only when such an arrangement is not in the child’s best interests. For instance, the court might decide that a parent is unfit to share custody when:

  • They have a history of abusing alcohol or drugs.
  • They have a history of domestic violence.
  • They haven’t shown interest in supporting the child.
  • The other parent has had primary custody for most of the child’s life


Published Opinions


Attorneys Dedicated to High Net Worth & Complex Divorces


Cases Settled Directly or Through Mediation

Adversaries know whether opposing counsel will eventually cave-in and capitulate to avoid trying a case, which is a weakness that impacts outcomes. Our family law attorneys are all trial lawyers. A client can obtain the best result in a settlement when she or he is represented by an attorney who will try the case if necessary. 


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Types of Child Custody in New Jersey

New Jersey law allows parents to make several types of child custody arrangements, all of which must prioritize the child’s health and safety. Some common types of child custody include:

Joint legal custody

In a joint legal custody arrangement, both parents share legal custody, which is the right to have a say in major life decisions for the child. Some joint legal custody arrangements grant parents shared custody rights over certain issues but not others. Joint legal custody is one of the most common custody arrangements.

Sole legal custody

In a sole legal custody arrangement, the parent with sole legal custody has the right to make significant life decisions on behalf of the child without asking or notifying the other parent. Today’s courts rarely approve sole legal custody arrangements unless one parent is unavailable or unfit for custody.

Joint physical custody

In a joint physical custody arrangement, a child splits time living with each parent in separate homes. Some joint physical custody arrangements have children spend equal time with each parent. Others grant one parent primary physical custody, meaning that one parent has physical custody most of the time, and the other parent has secondary custody.

Sole physical custody

In a sole physical custody arrangement, the child lives with one parent exclusively, and the non-custodial parent might or might not have visitation rights. Like sole legal custody arrangements, sole physical custody arrangements are rare unless courts have good reason to order them.

Emergency custody

The court will only grant temporary emergency custody if a party can prove that “immediate and permanent harm” will occur otherwise. When you file a case as an emergent matter, you can ask the court to grant emergency custody rights, terminate the other parent’s visitation rights, and temporarily prevent the other parent from relocating your child out of state.

Factors in Determining Child Custody

parent and child playing with toy car

The New Jersey Rules of Court dictate the factors that judges should consider in determining child custody orders. When mediation is unsuccessful, a judge can order the court’s Family Division to investigate the following:

  • The character and fitness of each parent, according to the observations of a qualified mental health professional
  • The overall economic situation of the family
  • The ability of either parent to pay alimony, child support, or both
  • The state of each parent’s home
  • The existence of appropriate child safety precautions in each parent’s home
  • The number of household members living in each parent’s home
  • The child’s relationship to the household members residing in each home
  • The criminal histories of each parent
  • The child’s preference, if they are older than 12

Modifying a Child Custody Order

Your child’s needs will inevitably change as they age, so you might need to modify some or all of your custody arrangement. Similarly, your circumstances might change, such as your income, living situation, employment, and other matters, in which case you could request the modification of your child custody order.

The simplest method for modifying a custody order in New Jersey involves parents coming to an out-of-court agreement and then seeking court approval for the changes. If you reach a verbal agreement without a court order, enforcing the agreement will be difficult if the other parent violates the terms.

If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on a modification to your custody order, you will need to file a motion in court seeking the changes you want. But remember, the court will not simply grant a modification request without reason. There must be proof that your circumstances have changed substantially and that a modification of the order is in your child’s best interests.

Child Relocation Issues

parent holding childs hands

If you or your child’s other parent wish to move the child to a different state, obtaining permission from either the other parent or the court is typically necessary. Like all other custody issues, the child’s best interests are the primary consideration when judges decide whether a parent with joint custody can move a child to another state.

Remember that even if you have a legitimate reason to move out of state, the court will still prioritize your child’s best interests. Similarly, just because relocating your child to another state would not cause them any harm does not automatically mean that moving is what’s best for them.

Parental Visitation and Parenting Time

These days, courts usually refer to parental visitation rights as parenting time, which is the amount of time a non-custodial parent may spend with their child. New Jersey courts take parental visitation rights seriously, and state law ensures that minor children have regular contact with both of their parents. The child’s preference is usually a factor if they are sufficiently mature, but it’s only one consideration.

Every family is different, so there is no standard arrangement for parenting time in New Jersey. Family law judges try to stay flexible in scheduling parenting time, so the child’s best interests remain front and center. In some cases, judges might order supervised parenting time when one parent has a history of abuse, mental health problems, or other issues that could place the child at risk.

One common issue in child custody cases involves one parent failing or refusing to comply with an established parenting time schedule. If parenting time violations occur frequently enough to become a problem, the court might intervene by imposing penalties or modifying the custody arrangement.

Choosing the Right Child Custody Lawyer

child upset about parents fighting

When you consult with a child custody lawyer, you have specific and immediate concerns that are important to you and your family and your future. It is vital to choose the right attorney.

At Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman, our child custody attorneys are all trial lawyers. Not all family law attorneys regularly try cases. Some clients have hired us as new counsel when their previous attorney would not try their cases. In family law matters, adversaries know whether an opposing attorney will eventually cave in to avoid trying a case, which is a weakness that impacts outcomes. Clients can obtain the best result in a settlement when they are represented by an attorney who is capable of going to trial if necessary. The capability to try cases in court allows us to successfully settle about 98% of cases outside of court.

When you work with the lawyer who’s right for you, you’re far more likely to achieve a favorable resolution that withstands the test of time. If you are not sure where to start, consider the following factors as you make your family law attorney selection:

  • Experience – Keep in mind that not all attorneys have the right skills or experience to handle complex family matters. Find an attorney whose primary focus and expertise are in family law. Hiring an attorney without significant family law practice under his or her belt will put you at a significant disadvantage. A lawyer with detailed knowledge of New Jersey family law and extensive experience in the local family law court system will likely be an asset to you.
  • Availability – Ask about your prospective lawyer’s caseload and the amount of time he or she will have to devote to your case. Inquire about your attorney’s accessibility to answer questions or address your concerns in a timely manner.
  • Candor – The best lawyer in any situation is one who will tell their clients what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. You want a lawyer who will evaluate your case frankly and candidly, so you have an accurate and realistic idea of what to expect.
  • Results – An attorney’s record of success in court is another critical factor to consider because if negotiation and settlement fail, litigation is a possibility. Therefore, ask about the prospective lawyer’s experience in court and the results they have achieved for their clients.
  • Rapport – You should feel comfortable with your attorney and feel you communicate openly and effectively with each other. The match has to feel right to you. An attorney who is right for your friend may not be right for you.

What to Expect When Meeting with Our Child Custody Lawyers

child hugging parent

During your consultation with the child custody attorneys at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman, we will:

  • Meet with you in person or on Zoom
  • Review all the documents relevant to your case
  • Complete an analysis based on the facts you present
  • Discuss what the best option is to settle your case and make a proposed settlement to the other side
  • Explain what is likely to happen if the matter goes to trial, given the existing state of the law regarding the issues
  • Explain the procedural steps once the case is in the court system
  • Provide you with practical measures to implement while the matter is pending to safeguard your interests as the case proceeds, such as measures to implement for issues concerning children
  • Present alternative dispute resolution options and the pros and cons of each

Our Child Custody Lawyers Are Ready to Help

If you have questions and wish to discuss your child custody case with a trusted attorney, don’t hesitate to reach out to the child custody lawyers at Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman. Contact us today to get started with a confidential consultation to find out why so many others in our community have turned to us in their time of need.