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Essential Guide to Child Custody in New Jersey

When divorcing parents must make custody decisions for their child, it can be difficult. No parent wants to give up the time they have with their child. However, when parents separate or get a divorce, it's something they will have to deal with, for better or worse.

Explaining Child Custody

New Jersey courts generally favor custody arrangements that allow a child to have a healthy childhood and a relationship with both parents. This means a Court favors a child spending time with both of their parents. The exception to this is if spending time with one parent could potentially cause harm to the child or goes against the child’s best interests.

There are two aspects of custody:

  • Physical Custody: Where the child will reside and spend most of their time. The parent who has physical custody is called the Parent of Primary Residence. The other parent is the Parent of Alternate Residence.

  • Legal Custody: Which parent is responsible for making decisions regarding the child's welfare. In New Jersey parents most likely will be granted joint Legal Custody, absent some special or unusual circumstances.

The following are the types of custody the courts consider:

  • Joint Legal Custody: The child lives with one parent or alternates between parents, and they work together to determine medical, educational and other important decisions for the child.

  • Sole Legal Custody: Sole Legal Custody is extremely rare in New Jersey and is only granted in the gravest of circumstances. This means one parent has all the rights and decision-making power.

Determining Child Custody in New Jersey

Family courts in New Jersey consider some of the following factors when deciding custody:

  • Whether the child has siblings

  • The child's relationship with their parents or siblings

  • The child's preference (If the child is at a sufficient age, and has the intelligence to state their preference)

  • What type of environment the child is used to living in

  • The ability of each parent to take care of the child

  • If there has been a history of domestic violence

  • The geographical proximity of the parents' home

  • Whether there is a history of substance abuse

  • Who has been primarily responsible for the child’s care

Any custody arrangement the court decides on should is thought to be in the best interests of the child. This is their priority and this is the standard.

Creating an Effective Parenting Plan

Parents may not always agree to the terms of a parenting plan, but it is beneficial if they can try and cooperate when creating a parenting plan. You know your child better than any Judge. It is always in a child’s best interests if parents can work together for their benefit. In New Jersey, any parenting plan that the parents agree to will be approved by the Court.

In cases where the parents cannot agree, the Court will require each parent to create their own proposed parenting plan that the court will consider. The court will then decide what will be in the child's best interests. The Court may order a custody evaluation and thereafter a trial to determine what is best.

When parents create a parenting plan on their own, it should always keep the child's best interest as the number one priority. Parents can potentially include the following in their plan:

  • Designate who has legal and physical custody of the child

  • Determine the child's primary residence

  • Create a parenting schedule that consists of a residential schedule, a holiday schedule, and a vacation schedule

  • What methods will be used if the parenting plan needs to be modified

  • Any thoughts or stipulations either parent wants to include

In most cases, the more detailed the parenting plan is, the better it will be for all parties involved. Setting clear expectations in the plan will help parents avoid potential disputes in the future.

Need a Child Custody Lawyer?

The key to making an effective child custody plan is to compromise. When divorced parents can cooperate and get along, the child will always be better off. If you are going through a custody dispute, and need an advocate, Rozin | Golinder Law is here to help. Our child custody lawyers understand how important your family is, which is why we will do everything we can to protect you and your family's rights.

Contact our East Brunswick child custody lawyers today at (732) 810-0034.

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