How child custody is determined in new jersey

child custody lawyer Clark, NJ

New Jersey’s child custody laws govern how parents can seek custody, set rules for visitation, and establish guidelines for courts to follow in determining a custody arrangement between parents. In addition, New Jersey’s child custody laws also permit grandparents to seek a court order entitling them to visitation rights, under certain circumstances. If you are separated from your child’s other parent, it is critical that you understand the child custody laws in New Jersey.

The Two Types of Custody

Child custody under New Jersey law is divided into one of two types:

  • Physical custody, which is where the child will physically spend his or her time and which parent maintains the right to physically control the child’s whereabouts
  • Legal custody, which concerns the right to make important childrearing decisions regarding medical treatment, education and religious upbringing

Both physical custody and legal custody can be subject to one of two custody arrangements as ordered by the court:

  • Sole custody, meaning only one parent may exercise physical and/or legal custody rights; the other parent may get to exercise limited periods of parenting time
  • Joint custody, meaning both parents must share custody rights

As it is a universal assumption that children thrive when both parents are involved in their lives, courts tend to prefer ordering joint custody, unless there is evidence of a history of domestic violence or substance abuse involving one parent.

Courts often encourage parents to negotiate and agree upon a schedule themselves if both parents share joint physical custody or if one parent has visitation rights. However, the courts can order parenting time schedules if neither party is able to come to an agreement on their own. 

How New Jersey Courts Determine Child Custody

The overriding factor in any child custody determination under New Jersey law is the best interests of the child. Under that goal, courts will consider several factors laid out by statute and in case law when deciding whether a particular custody arrangement or parenting time schedule serves the child’s best interest. These factors may include:

  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate regarding their child
  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by a parent, or by any other person living in the parent’s household
  • Each parent’s ability and fitness to parent their child, including the age and health of each parent
  • The stability of the parent’s household
  • The parents’ respective employment obligations
  • The presence of the child’s siblings or other family members
  • The child’s educational and extracurricular needs

In some cases, courts will often give significant weight to the child’s own wishes, provided he or she is mature enough to express a reasoned preference.

Parenting Time and Visitation Rights

Courts typically leave parents sharing physical custody or visitation to work out a parenting time/visitation schedule themselves. Courts also typically do not set guidelines for parenting time or visitation, unless the court orders that one parent’s visitation or parenting time is to be supervised (such as when the court is concerned about the parent’s fitness to exercise parental control or about the parent’s history of domestic violence or substance abuse). 

Finally, under certain circumstances, grandparents who are being denied the opportunity to see their grandchildren may seek an order of visitation with the child, which the court may grant provided the statutory factors for grandparent visitation are met and the court determines such visitation is in the child’s best interests.

Contact a Clark Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Child Custody in New Jersey Today

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Team Law represent clients throughout the state, including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, and Elizabeth. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (732) 540-1394 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 136 Central Ave., Clark, NJ 07066, as well as offices located in West New York, Perth Amboy, Edison, Summit, Newark, New Brunswick, Orange, Plainfield, and Jersey City.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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