Custody cases are both difficult and heartbreaking for all parties involved.  Judges, in particular, are asked to make decisions that effect an entire family’s relationship.  Often, the Judge will have several days of trial and testimony and the enter into these far-reaching decisions.

So how do they decide?  Typically the most important factors are as follows:

  1. The beginning and the end is to determine the best interest of the child or children. Unfortunately, that can be a lofty and inexact goal.
  2. To help reach this decision, the Judge will almost certainly look into the ability of the parents to cooperate and co-parent. For example, the Judge will take note if one parent has denied the other parent access to the child or children, absent a valid concern for the safety of the child.
  3. The Judge will look closely at the children’s ages, and their individual relationships with their parents and siblings.
  4. He or she will also take note of the active involvement each parent has in their child’s lives.
  5. The Judge will take note of any history in the home of Domestic Violence, whether or not the child has witnessed same.
  6. Some purely practical considerationsthat will be reviewed by the Judge will include the stability of each parents home and if they will be able or willing to live in close proximity to the other.
  7. Although this factor is somewhat age dependent, the Judge will consider if the child or children will have to change school districts depending on an award of custody.
  8. The employment responsibilities of the parents will also be taken into consideration.
  9. Lastly, but of great importance is the New Jersey statute which mandates that if custody is an issue, both parents must attend a mandatory Parent Education Program administered by the Court. The Judge can and will make a negative inference if one parent refuses to attend.