When parents end their relationship, they need to allocate responsibility for the care of their shared children. However, a child custody matter can be contentious. Plus, New Jersey child custody laws can seem complicated and confusing.
If you’re involved in a child custody dispute in north New Jersey, contact us to discuss the specifics of your case.
Child Custody Defined
Child custody generally refers to the legal obligation to care for and provide for a child. Child custody in New Jersey has two aspects: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody is the right to make significant decisions on behalf of the child. This includes decisions about the child’s:
- Medical care and treatment
- Participation in extracurricular activities
- Mental healthcare
- Ability to travel and obtain a passport
Physical custody refers to physical time spent with the child. A court decides both legal and physical custody in a child custody case.
New Jersey Child Custody Laws
New Jersey courts decide child custody based on the best interest of the child. Courts also examine either parent’s history of violence or substance abuse when determining custody.
The Best Interest of Child
New Jersey courts use the best interest of the child standard when determining legal and physical custody. In deciding the child’s best interests, the court looks at several factors, including the following:
- The parent’s ability to cooperate
- The parent’s willingness to assume custody
- A parent’s history of abuse or domestic violence
- The relationship between the child and parent
- The child’s safety
- Each parent’s stability
- The child’s relationship with siblings
- The child’s preference
- The geographic location of each parent’s home
- Any other factor that the court considers pertinent
The court will try to assign custody so that both parents play a role in the child’s life.
A Parent’s Problematic History
A court will not grant a parent custody or visitation if there are significant safety issues. A court will not give a parent custody if the parent has convictions for any of the following:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual contact
- Endangering the welfare of a child
Additionally, a court will not grant a parent custody if the parent is grossly unfit. A court might find a parent unfit if the parent neglects the child or cannot provide a safe home.
A court might also find a parent unfit if the parent is currently using drugs or abusing alcohol. There are procedures to challenge these decisions. You should speak with an attorney for more information.
Types of Custody Arrangements
So long as there are no significant issues, New Jersey courts prefer to award joint custody to the parents. The law supports the principle that both parents should participate in the child’s life.
A judge could create a schedule, or parents can craft a physical custody schedule that works best for them and the child. A court will review any schedule to ensure it’s in the child’s best interest.
Our New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers Can Help
Understanding New Jersey child custody laws is not easy, and navigating the judicial process can be overwhelming.