What to Expect in a Child Custody Determination in New Jersey

The Different Types of Custody | How the Court Determines Custody

What to Expect in a Child Custody Determination in New JerseyIn a New Jersey divorce proceeding where minor children are involved, the parties must resolve issues related to custody and visitation. The parties may agree to terms without the intervention of the court, but the court must still enter an order putting the arrangement in place. If the parents cannot agree regarding where children will reside and what parenting time will look like, the court will hold hearings and make the final decision.

The Different Types of Custody

In New Jersey, as is most states, there are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the child’s primary residence, whereas legal custody addresses the right of the parents to be involved in decisions related to education, medical care, religious training, and other important life issues.

As a general rule, courts prefer joint legal custody, with both parents actively and meaningfully involved in decision-making. Though there has been an increase in joint physical custody, most courts still believe it to be in the best interests of a child to have a principal residence with one parent and visitation with the other.

How Does a Court Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

Courts tend to favor decisions that ensure both parents are involved in the life of the child. Other factors the court considers when making a custody ruling include:

  • Age and gender of the child
  • Physical and mental health of the child
  • Ability of each parent to provide for the child’s financial, physical, and emotional needs
  • Mental and physical health of each parent
  • Emotional bond the child has with each parent
  • Lifestyle and routines to which the child is accustomed
  • Impact on the child of any change in residency
  • Possible allegations of domestic violence or abuse
  • Respective lifestyles of both parents, including alcohol, tobacco and drug use, or inappropriate exposure to sexual matters
  • Preference of the child, if the child has reached a certain age, typically 12 years old

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