Understanding Your Parental Rights when Getting Divorced in NJ
Divorce is never easy and is made more complex when it comes to child custody issues. As a parent in New Jersey, make sure you know your rights.
There are two general elements that must be determined in every child custody case; they are physical and legal custody. Physical custody deals with the day-to-day care of the child. The child is a primary resident of the co-parent who has physical custody of the child, referred to as the custodial parent. Legal custody has to do with the decision-making for the child. This includes decisions regarding religion, education, extracurricular activities, and all other important issues. A parent with sole legal custody can make major decisions affecting a child without consulting the other parent. With the emphasis today on both parents playing a substantive role in a child’s life, sole legal custody is uncommon. You’re most likely to see it in situations where a judge makes a finding that one parent is unavailable or unfit.
Typically, New Jersey child custody laws and courts prefer to grant joint legal custody so that co-parents both have a role in deciding how their child is raised. There is more controversy between joint physical custody and sole physical custody. New Jersey child custody laws and professionals sometimes view one or the other as being in the child’s best interest. It is totally different in every situation.
What can I expect from New Jersey Child Custody Laws?
Most of the time, New Jersey child custody laws allow co-parents to agree on their own custody plan to submit to be approved by the court either with or without mediation. If you and your co-parent cannot reach an agreement outside of court, the judge will sometimes require that both you and your co-parent submit separate custody plans for the court to review. In all other cases, the court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child.
What Will the Judge Take into Consideration When Determining Custody?
When deciding who will have custody, a judge will try to make an arrangement that s/he thinks is in your child’s best interests. Generally, the court will try to make sure that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting. This means that it tries to let both parents play an active role in taking care of your child and making decisions about your child’s life. The court will base its decision on many factors. Some of the things a judge will consider are:
- Both parents can agree, talk with one another, and cooperate about issues relating to your child.
- Whether you and the other parent want custody.
- If either parent has refused to let, the other parent sees the child. However, a judge won’t consider this if you prove that you denied access because you or your children were being abused.
- Your child’s relationship and interactions with both parents and any siblings. The court tries to make sure children will have an ongoing relationship with their brothers and sisters.
- The number of children involved and their ages.
- The history of domestic violence, if there is one.
- The safety of your child and either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.
- Which parent your child would rather live with if s/he is old enough to make an intelligent decision.
- What your child’s needs are.
- How stable both parents’ homes are.
- The quality and continuity of your child’s education, in other words, whether your child would have to change schools, and how good of an education s/he will receive.
- The general fitness of both parents
- Generally speaking, the court looks at the character, habits, and physical and mental condition of both parents to see whether it thinks you are “fit.”
- The distance between the parents’ homes
- Usually, the court will consider how far the distance is between parents’ homes and whether either parent plans to move out of state.
- How much time and the quality of the time that both parents spent with the child, before or after you split up.
- Both parents’ employment responsibilities.
These are only a handful of factors that the New Jersey child custody laws and courts consider. There are a few additional important factors, which may be less commonly known to most people. If the court observes that one co-parent is more likely to put personal differences with the other co-parent aside and focus on the child’s benefit, this co-parent has a definite advantage in court when fighting for custody. A second important factor is whether each co-parent is willing to encourage and foster a close relationship between the child and the other co-parent. New Jersey child custody laws may not necessarily recognize these factors, but they are essential in the eyes of a family court judge.
Do you have Questions About Having Custody of your Child or Access to Your Children in NJ?
If you are considering filing for divorce and need assistance with child custody issues or knowing someone who is, you need someone in your corner to support you doing this difficult time.
At The Montanari Law Group, we assist clients with every aspect of marital dissolution, including custody concerns and rights to access one’s children in Wayne, Paterson, Clifton, West Milford, Woodland Park, Little Falls, and Passaic County. Whether you have yet to decide your next steps fully or are ready to move forward immediately, our knowledgeable team of attorneys is only a phone call away.
To schedule a consultation with a member of our team today about your case, and speak with one of our highly experienced Passaic County family law attorneys today or at 973-233-4396 or toll-free at 888-877-7985 for a free initial consultation.