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Child Custody in New Jersey

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Child custody matters are of utmost importance when it comes to divorce or separation cases in New Jersey. The well-being of the children involved is a primary concern, and the state's family court system strives to ensure that the custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Types of Custody

In New Jersey, child custody can be categorized into two main types:

a) Physical Custody: This refers to the physical care and living arrangements of the child. If one parent has sole physical custody, the child primarily resides with that parent. In joint physical custody, the child spends substantial time with both parents. b) Legal Custody: Legal custody involves making important decisions about the child's upbringing, such as education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Like physical custody, legal custody can also be awarded solely or jointly.

Best Interests of the Child

The guiding principle for child custody decisions in New Jersey is the "best interests of the child." The court considers several factors to determine what arrangement would be most beneficial for the child's physical, emotional, and developmental needs. Some key factors include: a) The child's age and health; b) Each parent's ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment; c) The child's relationship with each parent and any siblings; d) The child's preference (if they are of a suitable age and maturity to express their opinion). e) Any history of domestic violence or abuse; and f) The distance between the parents' homes and its impact on the child's daily life.

Mediation and Court Proceedings

In New Jersey, parents are encouraged to resolve custody disputes through mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods. Mediation allows parents to work together, with the help of a neutral third party, to reach a mutually acceptable custody agreement. If mediation fails or is not appropriate, the court will make the custody decision based on the best interests of the child.

Grandparent Visitation

New Jersey also recognizes the importance of maintaining relationships with grandparents. In certain situations, grandparents may have the right to seek visitation with their grandchildren, even if one or both parents object.

Modification of Custody Orders

Custody arrangements are not set in stone. If there is a significant change in circumstances or if one parent believes that the current arrangement is no longer in the child's best interests, they can request a modification of the custody order. Common reasons for modification include a change in the parent's living situation, job relocation, or the child's evolving needs.

Parenting Time

New Jersey emphasizes the importance of both parents being actively involved in their child's life. Even if one parent is granted sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent typically has the right to reasonable parenting time (visitation). Parenting time schedules are often tailored to the specific needs of the family and the child's age and school schedule.

Child custody matters in New Jersey prioritize the well-being and best interests of the child. The court aims to create a stable and nurturing environment for the child's growth and development. Parents are encouraged to work cooperatively to reach a custody agreement, but the court is prepared to step in and make decisions if needed. Understanding the laws and considerations surrounding child custody is crucial for parents going through the challenging process of divorce or separation.


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