There is a widespread belief that New Jersey courts (indeed, courts located anywhere in the United States) favor mothers when making child custody decisions. This belief is mostly untrue. 

The belief is only “mostly” untrue because, in reality, there are probably a few prejudiced judges out there. Even if there are, however, this does not represent the normal state of affairs when it comes to custody decisions.

What is “Child Custody”?

The term “child custody” confuses many people. This is understandable, since New Jersey recognizes more than one kind of custody. “Legal custody” means the right to make decisions affecting the child’s welfare, such as whether they will go to private school. “Residential custody” refers to the child’s living arrangements.

In joint legal custody, the parents share decision-making power. This arrangement works if the parents get along well and see things the same way. If a dispute arises, however, you might need the court to resolve it.

Under a sole legal custody arrangement, one parent makes all major decisions affecting the child’s welfare. The other parent must go to court to overturn the decision of a parent with sole legal custody.

Primary Residential Custody

In a residential custody arrangement, the child lives with one parent more than half the time. It is unusual for this arrangement to completely deprive the other parent of time living with their child.  

Shared Residential Custody

In a shared residential custody arrangement, the child resides with each parent about half the time. This is the arrangement that most New Jersey courts favor unless there is a good reason not to.

Maternal Favoritism and the “Tender Years” Doctrine

“Maternal favoritism” refers to the once-widespread practice of favoring the mother in child custody decisions. The “tender years doctrine” was a legal presumption that children under five years old would be better off under the custody of their mothers in most instances. 

Both of these legal principles applied in New Jersey until a few decades ago. Neither one of them are part of New Jersey family law anymore. They explain, however, why so many people believe that New Jersey family courts favor mothers when it comes to child custody issues.

The “Best Interests of the Child” Doctrine

The “best interests of the child” doctrine is the principle that underlies all of New Jersey child custody law. It predominates over every competing legal concept, even parental rights. The idea is that the court should make decisions affecting a child, especially custody decisions, in a manner that would best serve the child’s interests. Not necessarily the child’s preferences, mind you, but the child’s long-term best interests.

Courts of yesteryear presumed that they would almost always be acting in the child’s best interests by awarding custody to the mother. This presumption turned out to be wrong. Numerous studies have shown that children are most likely to thrive when they spend significant amounts of time with both parents. As such, automatically favoring the mother in custody decisions would violate the “best interests of the child” standard.

Individual Factors

A court is not exercising gender discrimination if it awards child custody to the mother because the father is constantly in and out of jail, or because he has been convicted of domestic abuse. On the other hand, a court would be exercising gender discrimination if it consistently favored mothers, all other things being equal. 

As stated above, there probably are some biased judges out there, even if only a few. There might even be a few who are biased in favor of fathers. Being victimized by one of these judges is all the more reason to seek out a lawyer to help you settle your child custody dispute. 

A New Jersey Family Lawyer Could Turn Out To Be a Necessity

Child custody disputes are tricky to resolve when the two parents cannot reach an agreement. You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in a child custody dispute, and you probably need to exercise your right to a lawyer

If you don’t, and if the other spouse does hire a lawyer, you will labor under a distinct disadvantage. Under no circumstances should you trust your spouse’s lawyer to properly represent your interests.

If you are unsure whether you need a family lawyer, schedule an initial consultation to find out.

Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help

Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bergen County Law Office
1 University Plaza Dr #400, Hackensack, NJ 07601, United States