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What Is a Custodial Parent According to New Jersey Law?

What Is a Custodial Parent According to New Jersey Law?

The legalities related to child custody during a divorce can be complex. During custody proceedings, parents and guardians must engage with a wide range of legal terms.  

According to New Jersey state law, the custodial parent is the parent who provides care to the child most of the time. However, non-custodial parents also have legal rights.  

The non-custodial parent, for example, typically has visitation rights. They may also be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. Child support payments help cover the expenses involved in raising the child. 

When it is possible and practical, New Jersey family law courts tend to offer equal time to both parents. But depending on the circumstances, equal time can be challenging.

Categories of Child Custody

Family law courts hope to make child custody arrangements as fair as possible. There are two primary categories of custody on which family court judges rely: legal custody and physical custody.  

Legal custody refers to the right to decide on major life decisions for the child. Examples include: 

  • Educational choices
  • Medical care and treatment
  • Religious ceremonies and practices 

The parent with legal custody is permitted to make determinations in all these domains.  

The parent with physical custody is the one who provides the child with a place to live and material care. The parent with physical custody takes care of the child’s daily activities, hygiene, clothing, and other practical needs.  

The court’s determination about physical and legal custody will influence who the custodial parent is. 

When parents share legal custody, they both have the right to make important decisions for their child. However, the custodial parent will have primary control over the child’s day-to-day decisions and activities. 

The non-custodial parent with joint legal custody can still participate in decisions about education, health care, and religious practice. 

In other cases, New Jersey family courts will assign sole custody to one parent.

A custodial parent who has sole legal and physical custody does not have to collaborate with the non-custodial parent on major decisions. In these instances, custodial parents make all significant decisions about the child’s welfare and activities.  

While parents with sole custody can make almost all decisions without consulting the other parent, there is an exception. Custodial parents with sole custody must still comply with court-ordered visitation. 

In other words, a custodial parent is not permitted to move out of New Jersey with their child if it contradicts the judge’s decision. Decisions regarding relocation may require court approval.

Best Interests of the Child

Even in amicable divorces, it can be difficult for parents to agree on custody. The most important issue during a divorce is the well-being of the child.  

When New Jersey family courts hear child custody cases, they put the child’s interests first. It is typically best for the child to have meaningful contact with both parents, although there are exceptions. 

Courts may consider the following factors when making child custody orders: 

  • Open parenting time
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • Parents’ current involvement in childcare
  • The wishes of the child, in some instances

Family court judges attempt to craft custody orders that provide children with stable, thriving home lives. If you have questions regarding your custody order, speak with an attorney. 

A New Jersey family law attorney can help with custody by providing parents with legal guidance. Legal professionals can assist parents seeking custody of their child or who wish to modify an existing custody order. Securing legal representation can help ensure the best outcome for your family. 


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.

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