Area of Law:
When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, a New Jersey court will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child. Divorcesource.com provides a complete summary of divorce and custody laws in the state of New Jersey.
There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.
According to New Jersey law, the best interests and welfare of the child are determined by the court's consideration and evaluation of the following factors:
- The parents' ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters relating to the child
- The parents' willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse
- The interaction and relationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings;
- The history of domestic violence, if any
- The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- The reasonable preference of the child
- The needs of the child
- The offered stability of the home environment
- The quality and continuity of the child's education
- The fitness of the parents
- The geographical proximity of the parents' homes
- The extent and quality of time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation
- The parents' employment responsibilities
- The ages and number of children
New Jersey courts will presume that both parents should have maximum involvement regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional well-being of the child. The courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing.
After a custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the appropriate New Jersey court, both parents are bound by the agreement. If one parent is denied court-ordered access to a child, he or she may bring the issue back before the court. The judge may decide to modify the visitation order, provide makeup visitation for the time missed, or possibly order counseling or mediation. For a complete review of divorce and child custody laws in the state of New Jersey, go to lawyers.com.