Different Forms of Child Custody in New Jersey

As defined by New Jersey child custody law, legal custody is about who does the decision-making educational, healthcare, and other major life decisions for a child. Usually, there is joint legal custody with frequent and continuing contact between both parents.

While it is rare that one parent gets sole legal custody, this may still occur if the other parent is unfit, disinterested, or has demonstrated that they should not be a part of the child’s life. There are many different forms of child custody in New Jersey and the differences between them may be confusing. If you have questions about various forms child custody could take and which type may be most applicable to your family, a seasoned family lawyer may be able to help.

Custody Basics in New Jersey

There are many factors that go into determining whether or not a parent is awarded any of the different forms of child custody in New Jersey. If a parent has a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or other abusive behavior, that parent may be barred from having any type of custodial right over their child. Additionally, if one party is absent or unresponsive, choosing to not take part in major decisions for their children, the other parent may be granted sole custody.

When a child turns 18 years old, they no longer need to be under legal custody and are free to make their own decisions about where they would like to be. This does not necessarily alter child support responsibilities for a noncustodial parent however regarding post high school education and potential medical costs.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to which parent the child actually lives with. Parents often have a physical custodial arrangement meaning that the child primarily resides with one parent, but there is a schedule in place to determine who the child lives with and for how long. Some custody arrangements are split exactly 50-50, but others may vary based on different factors.

Sole Custody for Divorced New Jersey Parents

Sole custody means that one person makes all of the decisions for the child while they are still a minor. New Jersey courts encourage frequent and continuing contact between both parents, making sole custody arrangements relatively uncommon.

There are circumstances in which a court could prohibit the other party from seeing the child, but they would have to be extreme. Sole custody is generally only granted if there are valid concerns of abuse, substance use issues, or criminal issues that would render them incapable of rearing a child. Courts are obliged to always rule in a child’s best interest regarding custody, and this may lead to restrictions or total revocation of parenting time.

Joint Custody After Separation

Another one of the different forms of child custody in New Jersey is joint custody. In a joint custody situation, both parents have rights to decide what is best for the children. This means that both parents must agree on actions to take regarding education, medical treatment or other important decision. Joint custody usually occurs in 50-50 custody arrangements.

If the parties are married and they are going through a divorce, they would incorporate their custody agreement into their overall divorce agreement and it would set forth the parenting arrangement, the holiday schedule, and everybody’s vacation schedule. It would also outline expenses to calculate child support. Custodial arrangements could be included in finalized divorce court orders ensuring that all parties abide by that agreement.

If the parents were not married at any point, they should still have a custody agreement filed with the court to outline each parent’s rights and responsibilities. It will generally have the same elements of any other different type of child custody in New Jersey. An attorney could help parents draft these agreements and negotiate for their rights to raise their children. Parents may also have the option of a nesting arrangement in which they both still live in the marital home to raise the children, but this is often not a good situation for the parents.

Joint custody rulings could always be renegotiated between the parties. However, parents may not agree that changes should be made, but the needs of the children or parents may be altered over time, necessitating a reexamination of the agreement. If no compromise can be reached, parents must then go to family court again to get a ruling from a judge.

Why Consulting a Lawyer is Important

Consulting with a seasoned divorce lawyer regarding the different types of divorce in New Jersey is essential to find the best type of arrangement for your family before going to court. An attorney could also represent you in court to fight for the wishes you have identified. Child custody matters are often very complicated and representing yourself may lead to critical mistakes that could permanently affect your children. Call today to schedule a consultation on your case and learn how a family attorney could help you navigate the court process and what factors a judge may consider when creating a custodial agreement.

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