If parents of a child or children are considering a divorce, child custody arrangements must be defined and agreed upon. In New Jersey child custody matters, the family court system will intervene if the parents cannot come to a consensus. New Jersey family courts are legally obligated to render decisions that are in the best interest of the children.
With regard to child custody, parents can agree to child custody terms independently, or the family court will make arrangements for legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines who will make important decisions for the children including education and school selection, religious upbringing, and medical decisions. The courts prefer to have both parents involved in the lives and welfare of their children, so will often elect to award joint legal custody. Sole legal custody may be granted to one parent if there is a high level of conflict between parents, or if one parent is incapacitated or deemed unfit for parental responsibilities.
Physical custody determines where the children will physically reside as well as who will make daily decisions on the children’s behalf. There are several types of physical custody. Joint or shared physical custody means that the children will live with each parent at pre-arranged times throughout the year. Typical arrangements work around the children’s school schedule, and the children will commonly stay with the other parent on weekends or during school vacations.
In some situations, a judge may award split custody in families with multiple children. One parent will be awarded primary physical custody of one child, while the other children will live primarily with the other parent. As with legal custody, sole physical custody may be awarded in certain cases.
In cases in which the parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the courts will make a child custody ruling based on a variety of different factors. The physical, mental, and financial health of each parent is examined as well as each parent’s current living situation. The parent who remains in the family home or current school district is often viewed more favorably because living with that parent will help maintain the status quo for the children. Older children are allowed to state their preferences, and their opinions are taken into consideration.
The courts will also consider family history when making custody decisions. A history of abuse and violence in the home will affect the outcome of the child custody hearing, as will a history of sexual promiscuity if it is determined that a parent’s sexual decisions could affect the children negatively.
Because family courts prefer that both parents take an active role in the lives of their children, they will look favorably on parents who communicate well. Conversely, a parent who exhibits hostility and is unable to effectively co-parent with their former spouse will likely experience a less favorable outcome. Some family situations may require supervised visits for one or both parents. In these cases, the court will appoint either an individual or an agency to monitor the parent’s interaction with the children.
Child custody negotiations can be stressful, especially when parents are already contending with other aspects of a divorce in Cherry Hill. It is important to partner with a skilled New Jersey child custody lawyer in order to understand all of your options. Parents want the best for their children, and our Cherry Hill child support lawyers understand this and provide compassionate and caring representation that prioritizes your child’s welfare. With our skill and experience, we will help you come to a workable custody arrangement as quickly as possible.
Call the Law Offices of Richard C. Klein today at 856-988-5470 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. Our family law attorneys are dedicated to protecting and supporting families in New Jersey through all of life’s changes with as little stress as possible. From his offices, Mr. Klein serves clients in Cherry Hill, Maple Shade, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel, as well as the state of New Jersey.