Your bond with your children is likely one of the most special relationships in your life. Yet, if you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you may feel this connection could fray. Whether your split is amicable or acrimonious, you will feel saddened by the prospect of seeing your children less. But by understanding New Jersey’s custody laws, you can work out a parenting plan that allows you to remain present and involved in their lives.
Factors that affect custody in New Jersey
New Jersey courts encourage divorcing parents to work out their own parenting plan. This plan will include your parenting schedule, as well as details about how you and your spouse will communicate and participate in your children’s lives. In creating it, you two must prioritize your children’s best interests over all other factors.
Before your parenting plan becomes enforceable, it must receive approval by a judge. Yet, you and your spouse may be litigating your divorce if you do not see eye to eye on crucial matters, like custody. In this case, the court may require you to resolve your custody dispute through mediation.
In determining your children’s best interests, you – or the court – must consider:
- You and your spouse’s ability to communicate and cooperate with each other
- How you and your spouse divided parenting duties during your marriage
- You and your spouse’s work obligations
- You and your spouse’s ability to care for your children
- Your children’s relationship with you, your spouse and their siblings
- Your children’s preferences and needs
Legal versus physical custody
New Jersey acknowledges two different types of custody, legal and physical. Both types can take the form of a joint or sole arrangement. Yet, courts rarely award sole custody unless abuse or neglect is an issue. You and your spouse, then, will likely share joint legal custody of your children, meaning you will both be responsible for making decisions about their lives. But in New Jersey, one parent often receives primary physical custody. Whether this is you or your spouse, your children will live primarily at this parent’s residence. The other parent will receive visitation, which may include overnights.
No matter the terms of your parenting plan, you will want to make sure it protects your bond with your children. An attorney with family law experience can help you work toward an arrangement that reflects your unique circumstances.