Having a parent go to jail can have a dramatic effect on a young child. While a child might feel angry, anxious, confused, and scared about a parent going to jail, a parent often feels a sense of loss and uncertainty about the future of his or her relationship with the child. Many parents fear that going to jail means losing custody of their child, but this is not true. In 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that incarceration on its own is not a sufficient reason to terminate a parent’s rights to his or her child.
If the child’s parents are married, the parent who is not incarcerated retains custody of the child. If the child’s parents share physical custody of the child, the non-incarcerated parent takes the children
If both parents are in jail or if the non-incarcerated parent is not a part of the child’s life, another adult may be appointed as the child’s temporary guardian. To do this, the custodial parent and the intended temporary guardian must complete a temporary guardianship agreement form, have it notarized, and submit it to the Family Division of the Superior Court of the county where the parent lives. This agreement states the parent’s consent to the temporary guardianship and the length of time the child will be out of his or her care.
It is important that a child maintain his or her relationship with the incarcerated parent while the parent is in jail. For some children, this is best done through visits to the jail. In other cases, this experience is too traumatic for the child and the relationship is better maintained through letters and phone calls.
To prepare parents, caregivers, and children for the changes their relationships will undergo while a parent is incarcerated, the New Jersey Department of Corrections Division of Programs and Community Services Office of Transitional Services published an informational pamphlet called “What About Me?” In addition to describing the process of visiting a parent in jail, this pamphlet provides both incarcerated parents and caregivers with ideas about how they can make a parent’s sentence easier on his or her child.
To learn more about your rights prior to, during, and after your incarceration, contact The Law Office of Eric B. Hannum Esq., LLC. online or at (732) 365-3299 to speak with one of the experienced family attorneys at our firm. We are proud advocates for families throughout Ocean, Burlington, Mercer, and Monmouth counties. Let us help you work through this difficult period by providing top quality legal advice.