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How is child custody decided in New Jersey?

When you are a parent facing divorce, one of your main concerns is about your children. You likely are concerned about how your divorce will impact your children and how difficult it will be for them to split spending time with each parent.

You also likely are concerned about how much custody time you will have with your children. Will you have primary custody of your children? Or will you and your ex pursue joint custody? How will New Jersey custody laws impact your situation?

Child custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, courts generally favor parents sharing joint custody of their children. With joint custody, parents often share both physical and legal custody of their children. Physical custody refers to the time your children physically spend with each parent. Legal custody entails how parents make important decisions. So, with joint legal custody, parents often make decisions together about:

  • What school their children will attend
  • What medical care their children will receive
  • What religion they will raise their children in

New Jersey favors that parents come to a custody arrangement on their own. If you can’t come to a custody agreement and want to seek sole custody, your former spouse still likely will have some visitation time with your children.

Determining the best interests of the child

New Jersey courts weigh the best interests of the child when ruling on child custody matters. Some of the factors involved in determining the best interests of the child include:

  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • The age and sex of the child
  • How custody will impact the child’s adjustments to school and the community
  • Any special needs the child has and how the parent cares for those
  • How stable each parent’s home environment is
  • If the child has support from and interaction with extended family (such as grandparents) while in each parent’s custody
  • If there is any evidence of parental drug or alcohol abuse
  • If there is any evidence of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of the child by one parent

Getting help negotiating child custody

Your divorce attorney can help you negotiate your child custody arrangement. Your attorney also can prepare you for a child custody hearing if you end up in a custody dispute.

Ultimately, in most situations, it will benefit your child to spend time with each parent and have each parent involved in their life. It will show them that their parents’ love and care for them hasn’t changed, despite divorce.


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