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How Courts Determine Child Custody in New Jersey

Custody of minor children is often a contested issue. It can be difficult for parents to put aside their feelings and remain objective about the best situation for the kids. Whether child custody issues arose due to your divorce, or you and the other parent were never married, it usually requires you head to court to settle the matter.


Child Custody Basics

In New Jersey and in most other states, biological parents have equal rights to the physical and legal custody of their minor children. Physical custody is in regard to where the children live, and legal custody entails who makes decisions about how the kids are raised, including where they go to school, the medical treatment they receive, and if they learn a religion.


Types of Child Custody Arrangements

Parents may share joint custody of their children, or the court may order that one parent receives sole custody of the child. Whether or not legal and physical custody are divided similarly depends on the situation. While one parent may have sole physical custody, legal custody can remain equally split.


When one parent has sole physical custody of the child, the other parent usually has a right to parenting time, also known as visitation, unless circumstances show that it would not be safe or in the best interest of the child.


Determining Custody in Court

When parents have been unable to come to an agreement themselves, one of them must file for custody in court. Once in court, each parent is required to submit a parenting plan, which is a proposed custody arrangement. The plan includes basic information about the parent and his or her living and employment situations. It should outline how the parent will handle the kid’s living arrangement, visitation, and child care. The children’s schedule should take holidays and vacations into consideration, as well as ways in which the parents can adjust the plan in the future.


Under New Jersey law, the judge must consider numerous factors when determining child custody, including, but not limited to:


  • Each parent’s interaction and past relationships with the children
  • The parent’s willingness to accept a custody arrangement
  • Either parent’s previous reluctance to allow the other parent time with the children
  • The parent’s communication and cooperation with each other
  • The needs of the children
  • Each parent’s home environment
  • Each parent’s employment situations
  • Allegations of physical or emotional abuse
  • Allegations of a parent’s drug or substance abuse


Ultimately, a judge focuses on what is best for the children. This includes putting them in the safest and most supportive environment with the best chance for a good education and medical treatment.


If you need help developing a custody plan or want to file for custody in court, contact The Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards at (732) 297 – 8200. Mr. Rickards has more than a decade of experience fighting for parent’s rights in Milltown and New Brunswick.

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