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Child Custody Law

Child Custody General Information - What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.

Child custody cases in New Jersey can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:

  • Where the child lives (physical custody)
  • Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
  • How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged

This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the New Jersey court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.

New Jersey Child Custody Law Summary

After a breakup or divorce in New Jersey, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.

Some of the factors considered by New Jersey in child custody cases include the child's wishes, willingness of the parent to cooperate with their partner and any history of domestic violence.

How are Custody Proceedings Handled?

The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy.

In any proceeding involving the custody of a minor child, the rights of both parents shall be equal and the court shall enter an order which may include:

Joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include:

  • provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child

  • provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child's health, education and general welfare

  • Sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent

  • Any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.

In making an award of custody, the court shall consider but not be limited to the following factors:

  • the parents' ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child

  • the parents' willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse

  • the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings

  • history of domestic violence, if any

  • the safety of the child

  • the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent

  • the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision

  • the needs of the child

  • the stability of the home environment offered

  • the quality and continuity of the child's education

  • the fitness of the parents

  • the geographical proximity of the parents' homes

  • the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation

  • the parents' employment responsibilities

  • the age and number of the children

New Jersey Child Custody Factors - How Is Child Custody Decided In New Jersey?

If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a New Jersey judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".

In the state of New Jersey, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes New Jersey's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.

Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of New Jersey?

New Jersey has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may include factors such as the child's age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, consider other factors at its discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.

Do judges in the state of New Jersey favor joint custody?

Judges in New Jersey are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.

Courts in New Jersey do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

Do New Jersey courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?

New Jersey courts favor awarding custody to a cooperative parent who is willing to work together with the other parent regarding child visitation, scheduling, child support, and other co-parenting matters. New Jersey law favors co-parenting as being in the best interests of the child, and the courts will favor a parent willing to cooperate over a parent who attempts to alienate their child from the other parent.

Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.

Do New Jersey courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?

New Jersey has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.

Do the courts in the state of New Jersey have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?

New Jersey has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.

| State Law Official Text

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