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What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Child Custody?

Child Custody Attorneys Morris County, NJ

Serving Parents across Morristown, Chester, Harding, Mendham, Chatham, and Morris County

Child Custody Attorneys Morris County NJChild Custody refers to the legal guardianship and rights of one or multiple parents and/or guardians. In New Jersey, physical and legal custody of children is determined separately. When child custody is being considered, physical custody, legal custody, parenting timechild relocation, and child support may all be on the negotiating table.

At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, we have over 75 years of combined experience helping clients resolve their child custody disputes across New Jersey. We practice family and divorce law exclusively, which allows us to focus on the specific issues our clients are facing. Allow us to guide you through the legal process and ensure that you and your family’s rights are protected.

Call our office today to discuss your child custody needs and concerns in a free and confidential consultation with our legal team.

Chatham, NJ Parents’ Rights Lawyers Define Physical and Legal Custody

Physical custody, sometimes also referred to as “residential custody”, determines where the child lives and spends their time. Sole physical custody is defined by a child living with one parent primarily and spending less than two overnights with the other, non-custodial parent. Shared physical custody entails a child spending two or more overnights per week with each co-parent.

Legal custody determines which parent has the legal power to make important decisions in the child’s life, including those that may affect a child’s health, safety, education, religious choices, and general welfare. Generally, small decisions are left up to the parent caring for the child at that particular time, but major decisions are the legal right of the parent(s) with legal custody.

It is common for co-parents to choose joint custody, which again, can be separated by legal and physical custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents are entitled to take part in making all major decisions regarding the child. Joint physical custody means that a child will spend equal time with each parent, and is less likely as it entails a high level of cooperation and coordination between co-parents.

It is possible for parents to agree to any combination of these possibilities, i.e. joint legal custody with sole physical custody, joint legal and physical custody, sole legal custody with shared physical custody, etc. New Jersey law holds these two concepts wholly separate, and one does not directly impact the other.

How Do Child Support Arrangements and Parenting Time Impact Child Support?

Child support eligibility and amounts are determined by a litany of factors. One of the most important of which is the amount of time children spend with each parent. Physical custody arrangements, therefore, have a direct impact on child support owed. However, legal custody does not play a role in this calculation. Using the New Jersey Child Support calculation, we can see the difference in a few scenarios. Given a gross weekly income of $1,000 for the custodial parent and $2,000 for the non-custodial parent, we get the following numbers for two children:

  • Sole physical custody with 0 parenting time, $279 weekly, $14,508 per year
  • Sole physical custody with 50% parenting time, $195 weekly, $10,140 per year
  • Share physical custody with 50% parenting time, $128 weekly, $6,656 per year

In this example, a co-parent making ~100k annually may have a difference in $7,852 of child support payments per year based on the terms of child custody. This is a rough estimate and does not take into account several other factors which may come into play, but it goes to illustrate the role child custody plays in child support calculations.

Parenting time, previously known as “visitation”, is quality time that a child spends with a non-custodial parent in order to give the child the opportunity to see both co-parents as often as possible. Parenting time is considered separately from both physical and legal child custody, but non-custodial parents will often have more parenting time if they have agreed to forego sole or joint physical custody in the best interest of the child. As with child custody, it is a factor in child support as illustrated above.

Consult with Morris County, NJ Child Custody Lawyers Today

At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our team of divorce and family lawyers takes pride in offering personalized solutions for our clients going through legal disputes, including mediationcollaborative conflict resolution, and arbitration. We believe in keeping clients as informed and involved as possible throughout the process so that we can deliver the best possible outcome for your individual needs.

Our team of attorneys is led by three partners who have been recognized as Certified Matrimonial Law Attorneys by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, a distinction held by only 2% of practicing lawyers in the state. Our legal team has experience across a breadth of divorce and family law areas, including alimony, child support, child custody, marital agreementsdomestic violence, and more.

Contact us online or call our Morris County office at (973) 840-8970 to schedule a free and confidential consultation, find answers to your questions, and learn more about your legal rights and available options.