Perhaps your dream came true and you fell in love, you got married, you had children and raised your family for many years. So, what's going to happen to your family now that your marriage has fallen apart? You may be wondering where the children will go if you and your spouse can't agree on an arrangement.
Through every stage of a divorce, whether it's collaborative or combative, knowledge is power. Understanding your rights and what may transpire at any given time will increase the odds of reaching the settlement best suited to you and your family. Here is some important information to know about child custody in New Jersey.
Fight for the custody arrangement that's right for your child
The precise details of a custody arrangement can be tailored to suit the family, but there are two basic types of custody, joint and sole. Joint custody, as the name implies, sees both parents working as partners to raise their child. Parents make important decisions, such as choices about education, religion and health matters, together. This does not necessarily mean the child will live equally with both parents. Typically, children live with one parent most of the time, but the other parent has access to them.
The second, and less common, type of custody is sole custody. In the case of an award of sole custody, the child lives with just one parent, and that parent makes all key decisions about the child's welfare. The other parent is typically limited to a pre-determined visitation schedule.
How a judge determines custody
In many cases, two parents are able to make their own custody arrangement. As long as a judge is convinced the agreement is in the child's best interest, he or she will usually approve the deal. Not every set of parents is able to work together, however. When this happens, they must go to court to argue their positions and let a judge decide what's best. If you are fighting for custody of your child, you'll want to keep in mind these factors the judge will be looking at:
- Apparent stability of the home environment of each parent
- Fitness of the parent to raise a child
- Employment obligations of each parent
- How the child interacts with each parent and any siblings
- The child's preference (if age 12 or older)
Coming to court prepared to address these and other issues may help bring about the desired ruling.
Consider the advantages of experienced support in court
Some parents choose to go to court alone, leaving them less prepared than perhaps they could be. This fight is too important to not go in fully prepared with every available advantage.
An experienced lawyer who has represented many parents during this crucial stage of their lives may be the best asset in a custody battle. A lawyer's knowledge of New Jersey family law could be the difference between the family life you want and the family life thrust upon you.