Child custody affects parents regardless of marital status. It is the first priority when couples separate, and it is never easy. However, there is a misconception that there are winners and losers in child custody agreements, and that is false.
The child custody laws in New Jersey reflect most of the United States. But, there are differences, and those differences are there to make child custody issues less contentious and hostile.
Understanding Custody Laws
Child custody has two parts – legal and physical custody.
Legal custody is when one person has the right to make decisions about the child’s life, including medical and education choices. Parents can be granted sole or joint custody.
A parent that has sole custody makes the final decisions concerning the child.
Physical custody reflects where the child resides. The two types are joint and sole physical custody.
Joint custody means that parents split their time with their child equally. You can split the time in various ways. The most common is altering a weekly schedule.
Sole physical custody means that the child resides primarily at one residence with one parent. Most of the time, the other parent will have visitation that also works on a schedule. The schedule is either decided by a judge or both parents coming to an agreement.
New Jersey courts tend to lean towards favoring joint legal and physical custody agreements. The courts prefer that both parents are involved in their child’s life to foster healthy relationships.
The courts prefer 50/50 custody arrangements when deciding joint custody agreements. However, the court weighs the best interest of the child and whether both parents share responsibility for the child’s wellbeing.
What is an unfit parent in New Jersey?
It is ultimately up to a judge to decide if a parent is unfit and take everything into account.
The most common reasons a parent is deemed unfit includes:
- A history of drug and alcohol abuse
- A history or criminal record of domestic assault
- A parent demonstrating no interest or support in the child’s wellbeing
The courts take other things into account when deviating from a joint and physical custody arrangement.
- One parent has been the primary guardian for the majority of the child’s life.
- The child has siblings that the court doesn’t want to separate them from.
Can a child choose which parent to live with?
In New Jersey, a child over the age of 12 can request which parent they wish to live with after a separation or divorce. While the child’s wishes are taken into account, the judge makes the final decision based on facts and the child’s best interest.
The only time a child has the last word about who they’re going to live with is if they are emancipated or 18 years or older.
Child custody and child support are not the same things. Both parents are responsible for feeding and clothing a child, along with having a safe home to live in. Child support is the way to ensure that those things happen even after parents separate.
Two parties are involved when determining child support – the custodial and non-custodial parent.
The custodial parent is the one that the child lives with and tends to their daily needs. A non-custodial parent is the other parent and typically pays child support. But, they also have visitation rights and the right to help make important decisions for the child.
However, that is not always the case, either. A parent may have to pay child support and have no legal or joint custody of the child.
At the same time, neither parent may pay child support if both parents have similar expenses relating to the care of their child.
Understand Your Child Custody Rights
Child custody cases can get complicated and messy. New Jersey child custody laws do work to benefit the child’s best interest. However, it is rarely that cut and dry.
If you’re preparing to divorce or separate, it is always a good idea to contact an attorney concerning child custody worries. It is up to you to prove you have the best interest of the child in mind, and an attorney is there to advocate for you, your child, and your child custody rights.
At MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law™, we will fight for your desired custody rights with your child’s best interest in mind. You don’t have to navigate this stressful road alone. Contact us today so you can start the next chapter of your life.