When going through a divorce in New Jersey, most parents first objective is to ensure total security and protection when it comes to the health and welfare of their children. That’s why many of my clients’ first question when we meet is, “Who gets custody of the children in divorce?” Many people will say they want “full child custody,” or “sole custody,” but don’t really know what those things mean.
It’s important for parents going through a divorce to know exactly what types of custody exist so they can make informed decisions about their children’s’ best interests. It is also important that each parent understands their charge and responsibility when it comes to their decision-making authority.
Child Custody Options In New Jersey
New Jersey, like many other states, separate custody into legal custody and physical (also called residential) custody. For both types of custody, there can be sole or joint. This means that there is sole legal custody, joint legal custody, sole physical custody, and joint legal custody. Parties must address both types of custody arrangements. So while many clients say, “I want full custody,” there is no such thing. Importantly, many parents agree upon a hybrid of these types of custody arrangements that serves their children’s best interests.
What Do The Different Types of New Jersey Child Custody Mean?
Joint Legal Custody: Joint custody can be joint legal AND joint physical custody (sometimes called shared custody), or it can be joint legal custody with one parent being the “parent of primary residence.” In most cases, parents want joint legal custody with one parent being the parent of primary residence.
When parties share joint legal custody, that means they have joint decision making, authority, and responsibility for making major decisions regarding the child’s welfare. Some examples of the types of decisions would be major medical, educational, and religious decisions.
Sole Legal Custody: Sole legal custody gives one parent major decision-making responsibilities without any input from the other parent. New Jersey law disfavors sole custody except for certain cases. Generally, sole legal custody is reserved where one parent has a history of child abuse or neglect, drug addiction, etc. It also applies where one parent is deemed unfit.
Joint Physical Custody: When it comes to child custody in New Jersey, what most parents fight over is the physical custody of their children. Physical custody refers to day to day decision making.
Usually for logistical reasons, one parent usually is the “parent of primary residence,” and the other is termed the “parent of alternate residence.’ When one parent is the parent of primary residence, it means he or she has physical custody of the children for more than 50% of the time. Most times, because of the parents’ work schedules, children’s schedules, and other logistics, one parents usually has the children more than 50% of the time.
Typically, parents share physical custody and agree on a parenting time schedule; for example, alternating weekends with
How To Get Sole or Joint Custody of Children
My belief in most aspects of divorce, and especially for child custody, is that the family is best suited to make decisions for itself. Most of the times, with some negotiation and discussion, parents come to realize what’s best for their children. The child custody arrangement almost always includes joint legal custody and a fair parenting time schedule that affords both parents meaningful time with their children. Thus, the best way to get the type of custody arrangement that is best for you children, is to come to a negotiated or mediated agreement with the other parent.
If you cannot come to an agreement on NJ child custody, then your case is tried before a NJ family law judge. Trials can take years, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the end, there is no guarantee what a judge will decide. In fact, very often, a judge will make a decision that is very close to what the parties would’ve agreed on anyway. Many times parties will go through an entire trial, and then settle their NJ child custody dispute before a judge makes a decision. This is why I strongly advise clients to avoid trial, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Are You Going Through a New Jersey Child Custody Dispute?
When you work with the Law Office of Andrew R. Fischer, you have an experienced NJ child custody attorney you can depend on. I will review all of your child custody options so you feel more secure than ever when designing a parenting time and visitation plan. We will take a comprehensive look at your family’s schedules, needs, activities, and more. You will be left with no more guesswork when it comes to your children’s wellbeing.
I’m sure you’ll agree that you want a dependable, experienced lawyer who will achieve the best results for your family, without breaking the bank. I offer FREE consultations so you have nothing to lose by setting up a meeting.