How is child custody determined in New Jersey?

Child custody concerns usually rank high on the list couples entering the divorce process may have. Because of this, it is helpful for them to be prepared for the child custody process and to understand how child custody is determined.

The family law court will seek to determine what child custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. What is in the best interests of the child is different in each situation so factors are used to determine what is in the child’s best interests. Factors that are evaluated to determine what is in the best interests of the child include the interactions of the child with its parents or siblings; the stability of the child’s home environment; the fitness of the parents; the parent’s employment responsibilities; and the preference of the child if the child is 12 or older.

There are two types of child custody including physical custody and legal custody. Both types of custody can be joint or sole custody and both must be decided as part of a child custody arrangement. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with and legal custody refers to who makes important life decisions for the child. When parents are seeking joint custody, the court will evaluate their ability to agree, communicate and cooperate regarding the child. In addition, the family law court will also consider any history of abuse.

Determining what is in the best interests of the child is important for the child’s growth, safety, development and overall well-being. As a result, divorcing parents should know what the family law court considers when determining child custody.