Seven Frequently Asked Questions About New Jersey Child Custody
If you are a parent involved in New Jersey divorce proceedings, you likely have an array of questions about a number is key issues. These likely include questions about New Jersey child custody. Seven of the most common questions on this subject are:
- If Parents Cannot Agree, How Does a Court Determine Custody in a Divorce?
- What Is the Difference Between Legal and Residential (Or Physical) Custody?
- What Are Possible New Jersey Child Custody Arrangements?
- What Is Parenting Time?
- What Is a Parenting Plan?
- Can Child Custody Be Changed at a Later Time?
- Do a Child’s Desires Play Into a Custody Determination?
If parents are unable to reach a decision between themselves regarding child custody, determining custody, parenting time, and related issues then becomes an issue for the court. A court utilizes what is known as the best interests of a child standard in making custodial decisions in a divorce case.
The best interests of a child standard requires a court to weigh and balance a number of factors when working to determine how custody should be arranged in a specific case. Examples of factors include:
- Consideration of which parent has been the primary caretaker of a child
- Overall physical, mental, and emotional health of the parents
- Residential situation of the parents
- Age of child or children
- Whether there is more than one child in the family
Both legal and residential (or physical) custody are established in a divorce case. Legal custody is the designation of a parent (or both parents acting jointly) to make decisions on major life issues for a minor child. Major life decisions include such matters as:
Residential or physical custody is the determination of where a child will live during and after a divorce and how a child will spend time with both parents.
Statutes governing child custody in New Jersey provide for a number of different types of custodial arrangements when a divorce case involves a child or children. These include:
- Sole residential or physical custody
- Shared residential or physical custody
- Custody based on primary and alternate residences
In additional, legal custody can be shared by both parents or one parent can be granted sole legal custody.
Parenting time is the time which a child spends with a noncustodial in a divorce case. Parenting time should be regular and recurring. It is designed to ensure that a meaningful relation exists between a noncustodial parent and a child or children.
A parenting plan is a written scheme setting forth certain issues associated with a child or children in a situation in which parents are divorcing. A parenting plan addresses a variety of issues that include child custody, parenting time, and other issues directly bearing upon a child or children in a divorce setting.
A child custody arrangement or child custody order can be altered, amended, or changed at a later juncture in time. Parents can agree to alter an existing custody arrangement. Such an agreement will need to be approved by the court and made a part of a new or amended custody order.
If the parents cannot agree on a change that one parent does desire, a court ultimately will be the decisionmaker. A change will need to be determined to be in the best interests of the child or children.
New Jersey child custody law does permit a minor to make his or her desires known in regard to where he or she will live in some circumstances. A court will take a child’s custody desires into consideration if a child has reached an age and a level of emotional maturity at which a minor has developed reasonable decision making abilities.
If you are planning on divorcing your spouse, or if you are otherwise heading into a divorce case, call (201) 845-7400.