How Does New Jersey Define “Best Interests of the Child”?

How Does New Jersey Define When New Jersey courts consider custody, visitation, and child support matters, including issues like parental relocation and college education funding, the standard that takes priority is referred to as the “best interests of the child.” How do the courts apply this standard to identify what constitutes a minor child’s “best interests”?

The Factors Used to Determine a Child’s Best Interests

Under New Jersey practice, “best interests” is defined broadly, covering physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being. Additionally, New Jersey courts start with the assumption that it’s generally in a minor child’s “best interests” to have meaningful and regular interaction with both parents.

New Jersey law specifically identifies the factors a court may consider when making a determination of best interests:

  • The nature of the relationship between the parents, e.g., do they have the ability to work cooperatively, communicate, and reach agreement about issues related to the child’s well-being, including custody and visitation
  • The nature of the relationship between the child and each parent, e.g., the time the child spent with each parent before the divorce; the nature and quality of the interaction; and whether the nature and quality of the interaction has changed since the divorce
  • The fitness of each parent to attend to the physical, emotional, mental, and financial needs of the child
  • The stability of the home environment of each parent
  • The age and number of children in each home
  • The work schedules of the parents
  • The proximity of the parents’ homes to each other
  • Any special needs of the child
  • The preference of the child (depending on the age of the child)

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