Commonly Asked Questions About Child Custody In New Jersey

Our attorney, Scott J. Levine, has been serving clients in central and southern New Jersey since 1999. Over more than two decades in practice, he has helped countless clients understand their rights and obligations under New Jersey’s child custody laws.

Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we receive. If you have additional questions or want to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

How is contested custody determined?

First, it is important to note that there are two types of custody: Legal and physical. Legal custody is the authority to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, especially issues like medical care, education and religion. Physical custody refers to where the child or children will live, and when each parent will spend time with them.

These two types of custody do not need to be awarded in the same manner. For instance, parents could share legal custody equally while one parent has primary physical custody. Whenever parents cannot reach a custody agreement on their own, judges will make the final determination (often in collaboration with custody evaluators, guardians ad litem and other court professionals). Custody decisions must be based on the best interests of the child.

Can I get sole custody of my child or children?

In some cases, yes, but you can’t “win” sole custody simply because you think you’re a better parent. Instead, you would need to demonstrate that the other parent presents a threat to your child’s welfare. Courts prefer to keep both parents involved whenever possible, except in cases of child abuse, neglect, alcohol and drug abuse, or similar behaviors.

I am not married to my child’s mother. Can she refuse visitation?

Typically not, especially if there is no dispute about whether you are the father. In cases when paternity hasn’t been established (through voluntary acknowledgement or official court proceedings), however, fathers have very limited rights. You would first need to establish paternity; then you could petition the court for shared custody.

How is child support calculated?

New Jersey uses a statutory formula considering numerous factors that we discuss on our child support page. Whether you are the parent paying or the parent receiving support, it is critical that the amount of child support meets the needs of the children, meets the abilities of the paying parent and is sustainable for all parties. Your attorney must ensure that the court receives accurate financial information and any additional information that could influence the award amount.

Are parents required to pay for college as part of child support obligations?

Typically, child support obligations end when a child reaches age 19 in New Jersey. However, there may be reasons for parents to continue providing support, and one parent can petition the court to extend the support obligations.

When it comes to paying for college specifically, this issue continues to evolve over time as new cases set precedent in state courts. Support for tuition is generally a negotiated agreement between parents, but there are sometimes cases in which one parent is court ordered to continue providing support to their child in college.

Do children get to decide which parent they live with?

Courts will consider a range of factors when determining which custody arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. While the child’s preference is never a deciding factor on its own, judges will weigh it appropriately for children ages 12 and over.

Learn More By Speaking To An Attorney

Scott J. Levine serves family law clients throughout central and southern New Jersey. To discuss your legal options in an initial consultation, call our office in Mount Laurel at 856-234-2855 or submit an online contact form.