Child custody is often a significant issue in a New Jersey divorce action. However, disputes regarding child custody can arise at any time. For example, parents may dispute paternity, file for custody because the other parent is unfit, or argue about grandparent rights.
Regardless of how the matter comes before the court, two different types of child custody are granted in New Jersey. Each type can be awarded jointly to both parents or solely to one parent.
Types of Child Custody in New Jersey
Child custody orders outline where a child lives and who makes decisions for the child. The two types of child custody a New Jersey family court judge can order are:
Physical custody refers to a child’s primary residence and which parent spends time with the child, including caring for their daily needs.
Joint physical custody means both parents are responsible for caring for the child’s daily needs, and each parent spends significant time with the child. However, a child may primarily live with one parent to provide continuity and stability. Shared custody refers to a situation where the parents have the child on an equal basis.
Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent (the custodial parent), and the other parent has visitation (the non-custodial parent).
Legal custody refers to which parent has the right to make decisions for their child. Decisions would include matters related to the child’s education, healthcare, extra-curricular activities, religious upbringing, and more.
Joint legal custody gives this right to both parents. They have shared decision-making responsibility for the child. Sole legal custody vests this right with one parent. The other parent has no authority to make decisions for the child, nor does the parent with sole legal custody have to consider input from the other parent.
What Do New Jersey Judges Consider When Deciding Child Custody Cases?
The primary concern in all child custody cases is the best interests of the children. Therefore, New Jersey courts encourage parents to work together to develop a parenting plan and visitation schedule because they know their children’s needs better than anyone else. However, a judge can modify the proposed parenting plan if they believe any of the provisions are not in the child’s best interest.
When parents dispute the terms of child custody, a judge decides what is in a child’s best interest. Judges use several factors to make these decisions.
- The ability and desire of the parents to effectively communicate with each other in matters related to their children;
- A child’s unique needs, if any;
- How close the parents’ homes are to each other;
- The fitness of each parent to have custody and care of a child;
- The child’s reasonable preferences regarding custody based on age-appropriate requests;
- The number of children in a parent’s home and the ages of each child;
- The location of the child’s school;
- Any allegations of or a history of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect;
- The quality and extent of the time a parent spends with their child before and after separation;
- The stability and safety of each parent’s home;
- The desire for continuity and stability; and,
- Any other matters the judge deems relevant to determine the best interests of the child.
New Jersey judges have the discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem or attorney to represent a child in a custody matter. These parties represent the child’s best interests.
Modifying Child Custody in Monmouth County, NJ
Modifying a child custody order in New Jersey must be done through the court to be legally enforceable. If you change the terms of your child custody agreement with your ex, you cannot take them to court if they violate your agreement unless the court orders the modification.
Therefore, you must file a petition for modification with the court. The judge must find a substantial change in circumstances to warrant changing the current custody terms. Furthermore, the changes must be in the child’s best interest for the judge to order the modification.
Do You Need Help With a Child Custody Matter in New Jersey?
Child custody can be a complicated matter for parents. If you have questions or concerns, you can schedule a free consultation to talk with a Monmouth County child custody lawyer.
Contact an Experienced Child Custody Attorney at The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC for Legal Advice
To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm in Red Bank. NJ at (732) 747-1882 or contact us online today.
You can also visit our law firm at 157 Broad St #111, Red Bank, NJ 07701.