New Jersey Child Custody Determinations

The Types of Custody | Factors the Court Considers

New Jersey Child Custody DeterminationsIn a divorce proceeding where there are minor children in the home, one of the most difficult decisions can be determination of child custody. Where will the child spend most of their time? What will visitation look like?

The Different Types of Child Custody

In New Jersey, as in other states, there are two components to a custody arrangement—physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody addresses where the child will reside most of the time—what will be considered the child’s “home.” Though the parents can essentially “share” custody, with the child spending half of their time with each parent, it’s more common for the court to grant primary custody to one parent and allow the other visitation rights. The parents may mutually agree to a custody arrangement, subject to the approval of the court. If they cannot agree, the court will make the determination, based on what it perceives to be in the best interests of the child.

Legal custody refers to the right of each parent to be involved in decision-making regarding the child’s educational, health, religious, and other special needs. The preference of the courts in New Jersey is to grant joint legal custody.

How Is the “Best Interests of the Child” Defined in New Jersey?

Courts tend to believe that the best interests of the child are served by regular and meaningful contact with, and involvement of, both parents. Other factors the court might consider include:

  • Age and gender of the child
  • Physical and mental health of the child and both parents, including the ability to parent, as well as any instances or allegations of domestic violence or abuse
  • Respective lifestyles of both parents, including substance abuse issues or inappropriate exposure to sexual inappropriate behaviors or materials
  • Emotional bond between the child and each parent
  • Ability of each parent to meet the child’s financial, physical, and emotional needs
  • Lifestyle and routines to which the child has become accustomed
  • Impact a change of residency will have on the child
  • Preference of the child, if the child has reached a certain age, typically 12 years of age

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

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