Family law: Child custody
Whether it is during your divorce or whether you are trying to change an existing order, cases involving child custody can be stressful and difficult for parents. Having the necessary information can help you understand your rights and secure your child’s welfare. It is essential to know the custodial arrangement that works best for your situation.
New Jersey has two aspects of child custody:
- Physical Custody- determines where the child lives or resides.
- Legal Custody- determines who makes the important life decisions regarding the child, involving but not limited to education, health, and manner of upbringing.
Based on your situation, the family can choose from three types of child custody arrangements that are provided by the New Jersey courts.
- Joint Legal Custody: Under this arrangement, one parent will be responsible for the physical custody, but both the parents will be equally involved in making major life decisions for the child.
- Joint legal and physical custody: Under this arrangement, the parents share the child’s custody equally. The child alternately lives and spends time with each parent, and both parents are involved equally in any major life decisions regarding the child.
- Sole custody: under this arrangement, only one parent is awarded the residential custody as well as the legal custody to make decisions regarding the child without having to consult or notify the other parent (referred to as the non-custodial parent).
The state of New Jersey determines the child custody arrangement that best serves the child. The child’s welfare is the priority for the court. There are several factors that the courts take into account but primarily base the decision upon the ‘best interest of the child.’ Some of these factors are:
- Parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in child-related matters;
- Parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow visitation not based on substantiated abuse;
- Interactions and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
- History of domestic violence, if any;
- Safety of child and safety of either parent from physical abuse by other parent;
- Preference of child, when of sufficient age and capacity to reason, so as to form an intelligent decision;
- Needs of child;
- Stability of the home environment offered by each parent;
- Quality and continuity of child’s education;
- Fitness of parents;
- The geographic proximity of parents’ homes;
- Extent and quality of time spent with a child prior to and subsequent to the separation;
- Parents’ employment responsibilities; and
- Number and ages of children.
The court’s primary concern is always the well-being of the child; to make sure they have a stable and loving home. The court will consider both parents equally. Unless one of the parents is deemed unfit or absent, the arrangement the court offers includes both parents in the child’s life, either through shared custody or through parenting time. The court also considers the child’s wishes when determining the custody based on their age and maturity.
A custody arrangement is not permanent. It can be modified under two circumstances. Either both parents consent to change the existing custody arrangements and agree to the new terms, or a parent files an application for modification in arrangement showing a substantial change in circumstances.
Bhuchar Law Firm provides legal counsel and representation in child custody cases. Our New Jersey family law attorneys can help you navigate the complex legal system. Child custody cases are all unique, and we treat them all as such. Our attorneys carefully analyze each case to offer the best solutions based on your circumstances and needs. They make sure you understand your legal rights and are able to secure your child’s welfare with the best possible custody arrangement. Contact our attorneys at Bhuchar Law Firm to schedule a consultation and review your options.