New Jersey Child Custody Laws (Part 1)

One of the issues that must be addressed in a New Jersey divorce involving minors is child custody. Dealing with child custody matters requires a deep understanding of the legal landscape. It requires that divorcing parents understand the laws governing child custody. Child custody laws vary from state to state. While there may be some similarities between New Jersey child custody laws and the child custody laws in other states, New Jersey has its own unique regulations regarding child custody.

Types of Child Custody in New Jersey

The main types of child custody in New Jersey are legal and physical custody. Legal custody entails being able to make crucial decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including educational, religious, and medical decisions. On the other hand, physical custody determines who lives with the child after the divorce. Parents may be awarded sole or joint custody within each type of child custody. 

Joint Legal Custody

When parents have joint legal custody, they can both make major decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. In New Jersey, joint legal custody is the preferred outcome of child custody cases.

Sole Legal Custody

When a parent is awarded sole legal custody of their child, they can make major decisions regarding their child’s upbringing without consulting the other parent. This type of custody is not common in New Jersey. Often, sole legal custody will be awarded in cases where a parent is considered unfit.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody is the preferred outcome of NJ child custody cases. Joint physical custody means that the child alternates between each parent’s home. Joint physical custody can be a 50/50 split, but custody arrangements in New Jersey don’t necessarily involve a strict 50/50 split of time between parents. Usually, the main focus is on the child’s best interests. However, with joint physical custody, the child spends significant time with both parents.

Sole Physical Custody

Sole physical custody is when the child primarily resides with one parent, called the custodial parent, and the other parent may have parenting time or visitation rights. Just as with sole legal custody, sole physical custody is often awarded in cases where a parent is considered unfit.

Who is Considered an Unfit Parent in New Jersey?

A parent cannot be considered to be unfit unless their behavior has a substantial negative effect on the child. An unfit parent is one who cannot provide their child with a safe, nurturing, and secure home. Potential grounds for a parent to be found unfit include the following;

  • A history of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Previous child endangerment or child neglect
  • A history of dangerous behavior or criminal activity

How Do Courts Decide What is in the Best Interests of a Child?

Ultimately, New Jersey courts make child custody decisions based on what is in a child’s best interests. According to New Jersey law, when determining what is in a child’s best interests, courts should consider several factors, including the following;

  • Parental fitness
  • The child’s needs
  • The existing relationship between the child and each parent
  • The willingness of both parents to cooperate and co-parent effectively
  • The history of domestic violence
  • The child’s preference
  • The age and number of children
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment

Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney

Our skilled New Jersey family law attorney at the Trabosh Law Firm is experienced in all aspects of New Jersey child custody laws. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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