Things You Should Know About Child Custody In New Jersey

Divorce is a considerable stressor, and part of the reason for that is because it doesn’t solely impact just you and your spouse—your children are involved too. If you’ve ever worried about whether you were going to lose your kids in the process of a divorce, you’re not alone. 

Perhaps one of the best remedies for the anxiety and worry you are feeling is to sit down, take a breath, and get familiar with the child custody laws of New Jersey. Take the information presented here and go to your attorney carrying the right kinds of questions. 

Legal vs. Physical Custody

Legal custody is in regards to who can make decisions for the children. This applies to the doctors they visit, the schools they attend, and any decisions that will need to be made on their behalf. In terms of legal custody, parents can be jointly responsible, or one parent can have sole legal custody.

Physical custody, however, is about where the child lives. If you and your spouse have joint physical custody, the child lives with both of you equally. Having alternating weeks is one example of how this would work. With sole physical custody, the child lives with one parent more than the other. If one parent has the child every other weekend and two weeks in the summer, then the other parent, the one who has the child the majority of the time, would have sole physical custody. 

It is also possible that you don’t have joint physical custody, but that you both have joint legal custody. 

You Can’t Reach A Decision 

It’s not unreasonable that two people who are seeking out a divorce could have a difficult time agreeing. Perhaps both parents want sole physical and/or legal custody. 

Unless there are extenuating circumstances like domestic violence, the court will order both parties to mediation. This can be very valuable. Sometimes one or both parties are unfamiliar with the law, and by attending mediation, they might receive a better understanding of what options are available. You could leave mediation with an agreement without the court needing to intervene further. 

Should you and your spouse leave mediation without reaching an agreement, then the court will decide on a custody arrangement for you. Although New Jersey gravitates toward joint physical custody (50/50 split), there will still be investigations before a decision is rendered. Things that will be considered:

  1. Your finances and condition of your home
  2. Criminal records
  3. History of drug use and/or domestic violence
  4. Past instances where you have demonstrated (or haven’t demonstrated) that you will act in the child’s best interest. 

There are unknowns, but the court will base its ruling on the child’s best interest. People may tell you that at a certain age, children can decide where they want to live. Technically, that age is 18. However, when the child turns 12, he or she can tell a judge where they want to live. Because they are still a minor, it will still be up to the court to determine where the child lives.

Csepes Law Offices

If you are going through—or are about to begin the divorce process, the attorneys at Csepes Law Offices can represent you. We have experience in handling all types of cases connected to family law: child custody, child support, alimony, and divorce. Contact us through our website and schedule a consultation with us.

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