How to Become the Parent of Primary Residence in a NJ Custody Case

How to Become the Parent of Primary Residence in a New Jersey Custody Case

How to Become the Parent of Primary Residence in a New Jersey Custody Case

In this post, I want to give you a little information about being the parent of primary residence. Whatever your reason for wanting this designation, it’s important to understand the process of being awarded this designation and what it will affect in your child’s life.

Let me first tell you a little bit about what the parent of primary residence is, and then I’ll tell you how you go about obtaining a parent of primary residence.

Who is the Parent of Primary Residence?

The parent of primary residence is generally considered to be the parent with whom the child resides the majority of time, with the other parent being the parent of alternate residence. Now what that means is that the parent of primary residence is usually the one who will be charged with more of the significant day to day decisions. Day to day considerations include which doctor to choose, which daycare they’re attending, and what appointments they have. The parent of primary residence is usually the person charged with taking the children to these appointments and the like, so they usually have to be relatively close or accommodating their lifestyle.

When there’s a conflict in the decisions, courts will defer to the parent of primary residence because they’re the one who is usually handling these issues. The more significant decisions like religion, education, residence, and medical are joint decisions as long as you have joint custody and those decisions won’t be significantly impacted by whoever is the parent of primary residence. So, we’re really talking about what would be important to day to day decisions.

In many cases, being a parent of primary residence is becoming less and less significant because so many parents are sharing equal physical custody. When you have equal physical custody or something similar, parent of primary residence really only becomes significant for tax filing. The deductions or exemptions that remained had been altered a little bit after 2019, but they still exist in some way.

It’s also relevant in school registration. I see significant issues there because you usually can’t register a child in school without an order that says you are the parent of primary residence. However, as a quick aside, you can execute a consent order that has language assigning the PPR designation to both parents solely for the purpose of school registration to resolve that issue.

How to Obtain Parent of Primary Residence Through Your Custody Case

Now turning to the topic, if you are in a case where a parent of primary residence is significant or insignificant to you for whatever reason, here are the things you need to realize and prepare for when you go through the child custody evaluation.

First, you need to understand the custody process. You’re not going to walk into a hearing at the beginning of your case and be designated parent of primary residence, at least not permanently. You’ll go through a process which will include mediation, some case management, possibly an expert appointment, and then a trial. Of course, we’ll generally put you through several versions of each of those in order to get you to a custody case. You’re looking at what is possibly a year or two long process.

I tell my clients all the time, the most important thing to remember, not just when it comes to being parent of primary residence, but when it comes to any kind of custody issue, is that the court decides all custody matters based on the best interest of the child. I’ve found that people don’t generally understand or pay attention to what that really means. I say that because a lot of people will argue, “I’m a better parent. The school is better, my area is nicer, and there’s more family where I live.” Those things may all be better, but the standard is best. So, being a better parent doesn’t help. Being in a better situation doesn’t help. It has to be best. You need to consider the combination of all the issues to show that where you’re arguing the child should be placed with you is best. That’s important because a lot of judges don’t even recognize that fine point of the standard, but you need to keep that in mind for all arguments that you’re making.

Factors Used to Determine Parent of Primary Residence

After looking at the big picture of what’s in the best interest of the child, you want to look to other areas specifically with regard to how the child’s going to be raised, not just today but long-term.

First, you want to look at where you’re living compared to where the other person’s living. You need to look at things like:

  • What extra-curricular activities are available?
  • How close are they to their friends?
  • What kind of family support do you have?
  • Is there a lot of crime in the area?
  • Is it a rural area?
  • Will your child have opportunities to engage with others?

These factors all need to be compared to the area of the other parent in order to say that your area is best.

Next, I think you want to look at things in the educational and extracurricular areas specifically. You want to look at the school and find out how they’re ranked in state. You can also look into the teacher to student ratio and the percentage of students who go on to college or post-secondary education. Is there any crime involved near the school? Last, I think you want to look at any special aptitude that the child has, or you believe will have, and will need to be developed. You want to find where in your area those areas can be encouraged.

These are significant areas when it comes to a child’s life and development that you need to look to both as they exist now and as they’re going to exist in the near future. If you’re seeking to be parent of primary residence now, I don’t think you necessarily need to be able to argue this for the child’s entire life depending on what age the child has. If the child is two, college is not such a big issue, but if your child is 13 it is a major focus and maybe extracurricular activities are less important. So, you need to gauge the importance of these issues based on the child’s age.

Lastly and simply, you want to touch on all of the custody factors that the court will look at when making a custody decision itself. There are about 14 of them. They’re all not equally important, and when it comes to the PPR, they’re not all very important at all; it’s not a custody decision as much as a custody designation. So, while they’re going to be important, they’re not going to be dispositive.

I hope this information is helpful to you in your quest to obtain a parent of primary residence designation. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me via my website or at brad@micklinlawgroup.com.

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