Child custody disputes are among the most contentious and emotional legal battles that can arise between parents. When parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, the courts will step in to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at how the court determines who gets custody of a child in New Jersey, including legal facts and common misconceptions.
New Jersey law recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing, including decisions about education, religion, and healthcare. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and who is responsible for their day-to-day care.
When making a custody determination, the court will consider a variety of factors, including:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s fitness as a parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment
- The child’s wishes, if the child is of a sufficient age and maturity to express a preference
- Any history of domestic violence or child abuse
In making a custody determination, the court will prioritize the best interests of the child. This means that the court will consider all relevant factors and make a decision that is intended to promote the child’s safety, happiness, and overall well-being.
- There are several common misconceptions about child custody in New Jersey. Here are a few:
- Mothers always get custody: This is a common myth that is not true. The court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child, regardless of the gender of the parent.
- Joint custody means equal time with the child: Joint custody means that both parents have legal custody and share in the decision-making process. It does not necessarily mean that both parents will have equal physical custody.
- The child can decide which parent to live with: While the child’s preferences may be taken into account, the court will make the final decision based on the best interests of the child. This means that the child’s wishes are not determinative.
- The court will automatically award custody to the parent with a higher income: The court will consider each parent’s ability to provide for the child, but income is not the only factor that will be considered.
- Custody determinations are set in stone: Custody determinations can be modified if there is a change in circumstances. For example, if one parent moves to a different state or experiences a significant change in financial circumstances, it may be possible to modify the custody arrangement.
In conclusion, child custody determinations in New Jersey are complex and emotional issues that require careful consideration by the courts. While the court will consider a variety of factors when making a custody determination, the best interests of the child will always be the top priority. If you are facing a child custody dispute, it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney who can help you navigate the process and protect your rights.