Both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie issued statements referencing their family, following Jolie’s recent filing for divorce. In her papers, Jolie requests sole physical custody of the couple’s six children (they would live with her for the majority of the time), and includes a request that Pitt have joint legal custody, with visitation, also known as parenting time. In this divorce, some opine that the couple’s issues arose from their fundamentally different parenting styles, resulting in Jolie’s request for sole residential custody. Others emphasize that Pitt will want shared physical custody, refusing Jolie’s request to be parent of primary residence.
Although the couple is not divorcing in New Jersey, New Jersey maintains the same forms of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Courts favor shared legal custody, meaning both parents have an equal opinion regarding important decisions in the children’s lives, (i.e. medical, educational, and religious decisions). The situation in which a single parent maintains sole physical custody is recognized in New Jersey, yet the courts encourage shared physical custody. In a true shared physical custody situation, the child lives with each parent fifty percent of the time. This may involve parenting time with alternate weeks or half weeks (including 3 or 4 overnights). However, this situation is not always ideal, particularly when parents live a great distance from each other.
In all custody disputes, the court initially addresses the best interests of the children. If the living arrangements of the parents, their work schedules, the distance from their homes to the children’s schools, and other factors allow, a shared physical custody arrangement may be considered a viable option. However, in comparison to the Pitt-Jolie family (with unlimited financial resources that would allow for more long distance travel), the average family must take into consideration finances when determining possible travel for their children in shared custody situations. Moreover, a court would consider a parent’s fitness to care for children when deciding child custody.
If you are involved in a child custody dispute in New Jersey, contact the Morris County law offices of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark today at 973-828-0829. Our highly experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys regularly assist clients with divorce and related issues such as custody and parenting time. We will be happy to answer your questions with a cost-free initial consultation.