If you are facing a divorce, you may be facing the stressful situation of having a judge decide the issue of child custody. If you would like to have custody custody of your child then it is important to know what a New Jersey court and judge will look for and consider in their decision. To begin with, under New Jersey law, a judge will will always attempt to identify the custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child or children. The judge will consider what the child’s best interest is through numerous factors. These include:
- Are the parents fit to raise a child?
- The relationship and amount of time together prior to the divorce.
- Stability of the home environment.
- The employment held by the parents.
- The distance between the homes of the parents.
- The quality of education available.
- What the child prefers.
- Is there is a history of abuse or domestic violence?
- The parent’s ability to to accept and share a custody arrangement.
There are two important presumptions in New Jersey law to keep in mind regarding this decision. First there is no preference for gender of the parent in child custody determinations. Therefore, a mother and father both have an equal chance at being granted custody. Second, a parent will not be deemed unfit unless their actions have a “substantial adverse impact” on the child. The determination ultimately comes down to what is in the best interests of your child. An expert attorney can help you present the most compelling case showing that your preferred custody arrangement is in the best interest of your child.
Types of Arrangements
While the default form of custody in New Jersey is joint legal and physical custody a court can consider many other arrangements. In a joint custody relationship the child may live at either or both parents homes. The parents need to be able to agree on a suitable arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. Keep in mind that New Jersey law empowers a judge to order any custody arrangement that they see fit as in the best interests of the child. If you do not want a court to unilaterally decide the future of your child’s living arrangements it’s best to work together and come up with a custody plan. Once a plan is in place modification is rare. An expert lawyer can help both spouses understand all of the available custody options.
About the Author
Paul Young is the Managing Partner of Young, Klein and Associates and an attorney practicing in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for over 20 years. You can read more about Paul on his website.