Determining Child Custody in New Jersey

Going through a divorce is a complicated matter that requires a couple to settle several legal matters. If the couple has children, one of the most important parts of the proceedings is determining the custody arrangements. When a marriage ends, it greatly impacts a child’s life. It is important to try and provide them with a transition that is as smooth as possible to adjust to this new life.

While some parents are able to reach an agreement on custody arrangements, others have difficulty settling this situation on their own. When this happens, the parents may need to go to court to settle the disagreement by allowing a judge to make the decision for them. In the state of New Jersey, there are different types of arrangements that can be taken care of.

Physical Custody

Parents who are awarded physical custody of their child are the one with whom the child spends the majority of their time. This arrangement establishes where the child will reside, which is why it is sometimes referred to as residential custody. This parent is sometimes known as the “custodial” parent or the child’s primary caretaker. When a parent has physical custody, they are also allowed to decide the parent times of the other parent involved in the agreement. It is important to know that while the child lives with the custodial parent most of the time, they do spend time in the other parent’s home.

Legal Custody

It is crucial for parents to understand the concept of legal custody while going through a divorce. Even if a parent does not have physical custody, they should still fight for legal custody of their child. This allows the parent to have influence over the important decisions that are made throughout the child’s upbringing. This may include matters such as healthcare, religion, academics, and the well-being of the child.

Sole Custody

While sole custody is possible to attain, it is usually very rare. This type of custody is when one parent is awarded both legal and physical custody of the child. Courts generally encourage both parents to be involved in their child’s life. However, this can depend on the circumstances of the family. Sole custody may be awarded if one parent is deemed “unfit.” This may be if they are believed to put the child in danger or do not have the child’s best interest at heart. It is important to note that even in this case, this parent would still be allowed limited visitation hours.

Factors Considered

Handling a child custody case is a very sensitive and important matter during divorce proceedings. The decision of which parent is fit to take care of a child is not reached easily.  When a custody case comes to court, the judge always acts in the best interest of the child. There are several factors to be considered when coming to a conclusion:

  • The bond between the child and each parent
  • The parents’ acceptance of custody
  • The child’s needs
  • If the parent can provide the child with stability
  • If the parent will act in the child’s best interest
  • History of abuse (physical, alcohol, drug)
  • The preference of the child if they are of sufficient age

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