In the state of New Jersey, the courts can grant custody to either parent in a divorce, but several factors must be taken into consideration first. The courts encourage parents to cooperate and participate in the writing of the custody agreement. Custody cases are under the jurisdiction of family courts, and if parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court will step in to resolve the issue on their behalf.
If you have children and are getting a divorce in New Jersey, there are some things you should know:
There are Three Types of Child Custody in NJ
Like many other states, New Jersey awards either sole or joint custody to parents. Naturally, the court’s primary concern is the child’s best interests, and their decision will be based on what’s best for the child or children.
One of three custody arrangements may be awarded by the court:
- Sole custody: One parent maintains full-time care of the child, while the other parent is awarded “parenting time,” better known as “visitation.”
- Joint legal custody: Awarded to both parents, but one parent maintains residential custody. Both parents share decision-making responsibilities when it comes to the child’s education, health and welfare.
- Joint physical custody: Awarded to both parents, and both parents will provide homes for the child. In order for this arrangement to work, both parents need to live close to each other, so the child can remain in the same school.
Several Factors are Considered in Child Custody Cases
Courts base their custody decisions on the best interests of the child, but many parents are left wondering: what exactly does this mean? As per NJ divorce laws, courts must carefully consider the following:
- Each parent’s custody preference and wishes
- The child’s needs (including food, clothing, shelter, education), and whether the parent can provide for those needs.
- If the child is older and mature, the courts may take his or her wishes into consideration.
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other in making decisions about the child.
- The relationship each parent has with the child.
- The parent’s location and employment status.
- How much time each parent spends with the child.
- Whether one parent served as the primary caregiver.
- History of abuse, violence, neglect and/or substance abuse.
- Each parent’s mental and physical health.
Parents Must Take a Parenting Class
Courts in New Jersey require all divorcing parents with minor children to take a parenting class before the divorce can be granted. These mandatory classes help parents and their children cope with the emotional trauma that comes along with separation and divorce.
Unless granted a waiver by the courts, both parents will need to attend these classes.
Joint Custody is Preferred
New Jersey laws express a preference for parents to share child custody as equally and practically as possible. The goal is to make sure that both parents maintain their relationships with the child. Joint custody arrangements allow both parents to spend time with the child.
While preferred, joint custody is not granted if there is a history or risk of abuse or neglect, or if the child is in danger by spending time with one parent.
Child custody can be complex, but knowing what to expect can make the process less stressful. Your divorce lawyer can further explain the process and help you through the custody process.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with child custody. You can read more on this topic by visiting our Child Custody & Support blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.