Understanding Child Custody: Legal and Residential

When many people think of child custody, they think of it in terms of how much time each parent spends with the children. And while this is certainly one aspect of child custody, known legally as “Residential Custody”, a divorce’s child custody agreement will outline much more than simply a “visitation schedule”.

Residential Custody and Legal Custody Attorneys Woodland Park, NJ

So beyond the question of residential custody, a child custody agreement will also award legal child custody to one or both parents. Legal custody essentialy grants the parent(s) the authority to make decisions for their minor children regarding things like:

  • Education – Where will the children go to school?
  • Religion – What (if any) religion will the children practice, and to what degree to will they be involved in the religion and its customs?
  • Health – If a child becomes sick or is injured, which doctor will they go to? Which treatment option (if applicable) will be chosen?
  • General Well Being – Should the child seek therapy at any point? Should they enroll in some new activity, or withdraw from one which is causing stress or difficulty in their lives?

So while legal custody has nothing to do with how much time the children spends with each parent, it can be just as important a decision as residential custody can be. Depending on the circumstances of your family and you and your co-parent’s unique situations, it may make sense for legal custody to be granted to only one parent, or it may make sense for both parents to have legal custody. Much of this decision will depend on the advice, guidance, and negotiation abilities of your Woodland Park child custody attorney, so it is important that you are honest with your attorney regarding what you want, and what you think may be best for your children.

What is Joint Child Custody? Little Falls Child Custody and Divorce Lawyers

Now that we have a better understanding of the two components which go into a child custody agreement (residential custody and legal custody), we can now address the common perception that many of our Passaic County divorce clients have regarding “joint custody”. When most parents tell their divorce lawyer that they want “joint custody”, they usually mean that they would like to share visitation of their children on a roughly 50/50 basis with their former spouse. However, this request does not take into account legal child custody which, as we discussed above, is often just as important as “visitation time”.

Additionally, while it is possible to create a child custody agreement in which the children spend nearly equal amounts of time with both parents, such an agreement will usually require that:

  • The parents live within close proximity of one another (no more than several miles)
  • The parents are on amicable terms following their divorce, and able to communicate regularly and clearly with one another
  • The parents share similar parenting styles and beliefs

Without these things in place, most family judges will find that the strain of constantly shuffling between two homes and adapting to two different sets of rules is not fair to the child or children involved, and will not approve the agreement. So unless your situation meets these requirements, or you and your spouse agree to some form of bird’s nest child custody, it may be difficult to create a child custody agreement which is truly “50/50” and which a judge will approve.

However, that isn’t to say you are without options when it comes to creating a child custody arrangement which still allows both parents to maintain and continue to develop a strong parental relationship with their children, and which gives both parents the legal authority to make important life decisions for their children. Speak with our Little Falls child custody and divorce lawyers today to discuss how we can help you to create and secure a “joint custody” agreement that works for you, your co-parent, and your family.

Contact Our Passaic County Child Custody Attorneys Today

At The Law Office of The Montanari Law Group, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients to effectively and successfully navigate the entire divorce process and achieve fair child custody, child support, alimony, and marital asset division resolutions which protect our client’s best interests as well as their family’s in towns across New Jersey and Passaic County, including Woodland Park, Little Falls, West Milford, Wayne, and Clifton.

To speak with our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, your child custody agreement, any kind of child custody modification or child custody enforcement issue you may be facing, or any other kind of divorce or family law matter, please contact us online, or through our Little Falls, NJ office at (973) 233-4396.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.