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New Jersey Child Custody
Child Custody in New Jersey

According to New Jersey Divorce Statutes 9:2-4, the court may give either parent custody after taking into consideration several factors.

New Jersey child custody laws protect the welfare of the child, and the state's family courts strongly recommend divorcing parents cooperate in writing the parenting plan. This agreement reflects their willingness to provide for the child's needs and reduces the trauma of divorce. In awarding custody, New Jersey courts may favor the parent who provided primary care as well as the health of the parents and the child. If the child demonstrates appropriate maturity, his or her desires are taken into consideration.

Under child custody laws, the family courts have jurisdiction over child custody cases. In the event that parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, the court steps in to resolve issues on child support, custody, and visitation rights.

Either joint or sole custody can be awarded to the parent(s), and the primary guideline is the best interests of the child. The court may award one of three types of custody arrangements: joint legal custody to both parents, where one parent is responsible for residential custody; joint physical custody, where both parents provide homes for the child; or sole custody to one parent with visitation, also called "parenting time," allowed to the non-custodial parent.

In awarding joint legal custody, the judge allows both parents to share responsibilities for decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of the child. Physical, or residential, custody includes legal custody, but also specifies the child live in the residence of one of the parents with scheduled visitation with the other parent. Joint physical custody requires that both parents live near each other, so that the child's schooling and activities aren't affected.

In determining which custody arrangement works best for the child and the parents, the court considers all the relevant facts such as parent-child relationship, including the ages of the children and the number of children, the stability of the home, the parents' fitness, and how much time each parent spent with the child before the separation.

As governed by child custody laws in New Jersey, custody is awarded after carefully evaluating:

  • the child's wishes or preferences as to custody, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such preferences;
  • the parent's wishes and preferences as to custody;
  • the child's needs such as education, food, clothing, shelter, and whether or not the parent is able to provide such needs;
  • the parents' willingness to accept custody and ability to cooperate with the other parent in making decisions on matters concerning the child;
  • the child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and other members of the family;
  • the parents' employment and geographical proximity to home;
  • the nature of parent-child interaction;
  • the extent and quality of the time spent by the parents' with the child prior to or following the divorce;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
  • the mental or physical health of the parties involved in the proceedings.

Mandatory Parenting Class

New Jersey courts require all divorcing parents with minor children to complete a mandatory parenting class before granting a divorce. This requirement is designed to help parents and children deal with the trauma of divorce and separation. Unless the court grants a waiver, both parents must complete this requirement. Rather than give up an afternoon or evening taking your course in a crowded classroom, you can fulfill this requirement conveniently online at a very reasonable cost. We recommend you take Children in Between Online" to fulfill your court requirement and for the benefit of your children.

Joint Custody Preference

New Jersey law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as practically possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. The objective of New Jersey child custody is to ensure that both parents maintain meaningful relationships with the child, in part by ensuring both parents spend time with the child.

Since joint custody gives both parents joint rights and responsibilities in childrearing, this routine is deemed beneficial. However, joint custody is not always granted, particularly if the child's well-being is at risk with one of the parents.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

A parent can be considered unfit to be the child's custodian if substantial evidence proves that his or her conduct is detrimental to the child.

The parent who abuses or neglects a child may be subject to further investigation.

If a caseworker determines that the reported allegations are true and that the child cannot remain in the home without risk of endangerment, the child may be removed from the parents' custody. The child may be placed in foster care or with an approved family member, friend or foster family.

Parents who are unwilling or unable to comply with requirements of rehabilitation may permanently lose custody. State law requires termination of parental rights when a child is unable to return home after being placed in foster care for 15 months.

A criminal conviction of an offense against a child may result in loss of custody. Criminal convictions for murder, manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter of a child - as well as aiding and abetting, conspiring or soliciting someone to commit these crimes - results in termination of parental rights and loss of custody of any surviving children. Any parent convicted of assault or attempted assault against a child may lose custody of the child.

In awarding custody, the court considers the wishes of the parents and the child and the interaction of the family, particularly the child's safety if there is any history of domestic violence.

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