New Jersey encourages parents to cooperate on a custody agreement in the event of a divorce. They can decide to share custody equally or have one primary residential parent and one alternate parent who has visitation.
Review the factors that contribute to child custody decisions when New Jersey couples divorce.
The custody process
Parents can work with their attorneys to come to a parenting agreement outside of court. Doing so provides flexibility to create an arrangement that suits the family’s needs. If they cannot agree, they can request a custody hearing.
New Jersey strives to ensure each parent can retain a meaningful relationship with their children and encourages joint custody whenever possible. However, one parent may successfully petition the court for sole custody if the other has a history of neglect or abuse.
The best interest determination
When the family court decides custody, the judge strives to serve the child’s best interests. He or she may consider:
- The amount of time each parent spent caring for the child prior to the divorce
- How well each parent can care for the child and provide a stable home
- How many children the family has and their ages
- The existing relationship between the child and each parent, siblings and other family members
- The child’s wishes depending on age
- Each parent’s physical and mental health status
- Any history of substance abuse, domestic abuse or neglect
- Where each parent lives and works
Each parent will have a chance to present his or her custody plan and related evidence. The judge will make a determination based on these factors.
Before moving forward with a custody plan, both parents must complete a court-ordered parenting class.