If parents cannot decide who will receive custody of their children after a divorce, a judge makes a determination instead. Courts in New Jersey make decisions with the best interests of the child in mind and usually believe that both parents should be in a child’s life. This might mean that both parents share parenting rights and responsibilities or that both parents will have access to a child after a divorce.
When ruling on a child custody case, judges consider many factors. Both parents’ prior relationships with a child, relationships between siblings and other relatives, parents’ work schedules, parents’ abilities to provide for a child and how stable a home environment is all influence custody decisions. A court also considers the distance between parents’ residences and whether a child would have to change schools if living with one parent. If a child is mature enough to make a decision, his or her wishes would likely be considered in the custody process.
If child support or custody issues arise during the divorce process, some New Jersey parents may be required to attend the Parent’s Education Program. The program discusses issues regarding how divorce affects the child-parent relationship and encourages teamwork between parents. If a parent did not participate in the Parent’s Education Program after a judge recommended it, this can also be considered in a child custody case.
While both parents share legal custody in many situations, there are still many issues to sort out when determining custody after a divorce. A child usually lives at one primary location, and parents share different responsibilities and have a visitation schedule. If one parent has sole physical custody, he or she may also be be entitled to child support. A family law lawyer may be able to help a parent with all of these issues.
Source: Women’s Law, “How will a judge make a decision about custody?“, November 24, 2014