How Do New Jersey Courts Determine the “Best Interests of the Child”?

The Factors that Go Into Custody and Visitation Decisions

How Do New Jersey Courts Determine the When you can’t find a way to make your marriage work and need to file for divorce, it can be especially difficult to resolve disputes over child custody and visitation. Ideally, you and your ex-spouse will be able to come to an agreement that puts the needs of your children first. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

If you can’t come to an amicable solution regarding custody and visitation, the court will have to make that decision for you. When that becomes a necessity, the court places a priority on “the best interests of the child.” But what does that really mean?

Under New Jersey law, the court may look at a wide range of factors when seeking to establish what will be in “the best interests of the child”:

  • The amount of time (as well as the quality of the interaction) that each parent spent with the child during the marriage
  • The fitness of each parent
  • The age of the child
  • The number of children in the marital home
  • The ability of each parent to work cooperatively in matters pertaining to the child
  • The distance between the parental homes, as well as the proximity of each parental home to the child’s school and other activities
  • Any special needs of the child, and the ability of each parent to meet those needs
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment, including stability of partners or house-mates
  • Any history of domestic violence by either parent
  • The perceived safety of the child in each parental home
  • The work and extra-curricular activities of each parent, as demonstrating the amount of time available for parenting
  • The preference of the child, if the court determines the child is sufficiently mature to participate in the decision-making

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