The divorce process can be complex and emotional for everyone involved, including your children. Unfortunately, children have very little say in what happens to them during the divorce process. New Jersey child custody laws state the judge must decide what is in the best interest of the children, but how does the court decide a child’s best interests?

The following New Jersey Child Custody Guide answers some of the most commonly asked questions about child custody cases. Understanding the child custody process in New Jersey can help you prepare for what lies ahead as you work out details regarding a parenting plan and time-sharing arraignment.

What Types of Child Custody Does New Jersey Law Recognize?

Custody is the legal right to exercise physical control over a minor and make decisions for them. Judges in New Jersey grant legal custody and physical custody

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions for your child. For example, a parent has the right to decide where a child attends school or what medical treatment a child should receive. Sole legal custody gives one parent the absolute right to make decisions without input from the other parent.

Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with most of the time. The parent with physical custody is often referred to as the custodial parent. The custodial parent provides for the day-to-day care of the child. 

How Do Judges in New Jersey Decide Disputed Custody Cases?

Most parents work together to develop a child custody and parenting plan that works best for the family. Judges typically approve proposed child custody agreements if the plan does not harm the child’s best interest.

However, when parents seek sole custody or cannot agree to the terms of a custody agreement, a judge must decide for them. The primary consideration in custody cases is the child’s best interest.

New Jersey law states that the rights of both parents are equal at the beginning of a child custody case. Judges can grant joint custody or sole custody. When making custody decisions, the judge must determine what arrangement would be in the best interest of the child.

Factors the court considers when awarding child custody include:

  • The ability of each parent to cooperate and communicate on matters regarding the child;
  • The number of children in each home and their ages;
  • The fitness of both parents;
  • The age-appropriate preference of a child;
  • The quality and extent of time spent with the child before and after the parents separated;
  • The child’s special needs, if any;
  • The location of the child’s school;
  • The general proximity of the parents’ homes;
  • A history of or allegations of abuse or domestic violence; and,
  • The stability and safety of the home environment.

Judges may also consider any other factors they deem relevant to determining the child’s best interests. A judge may appoint a guardian ad litem or an attorney to represent the child’s interests if necessary and appropriate.

Does New Jersey Give Grandparents Visitation Rights?

New Jersey’s Grandparents and Sibling Visitation Statute can be found here. It allows a grandparent or a sibling to petition the court for visitation. The court must consider the following factors when deciding whether to allow grandparent visitation:

  • The relationship between the child and the grandparent;
  • The relationship between the child’s parents and the grandparent;
  • The time since the child last had contact with the grandparent;
  • The effect visitation with the grandparent would have on the parent-child relationship;
  • The time-sharing agreement if the parents are divorced or separated;
  • Whether the grandparent is acting in good faith by filing the petition; and,
  • Other factors relevant to determining the child’s best interest.

Before awarding grandparent visitation, the court must find that it would harm the children if they cannot see their grandparents over a parent’s objection. Then, the judge must determine visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interest. 

Can You Modify a Child Custody Order in New Jersey?

To modify a child custody agreement, you must obtain consent from your child’s other parent. The court must review and approve the changes in child custody for the new arrangement to be legally binding. As with all custody matters, the judge will look at the child’s best interest to decide whether to modify an existing custody order. 

However, if your child’s other parent refuses to consent to the change in custody terms, you must file a motion to modify child custody with the court. The court schedules a hearing for both parents to present evidence and arguments supporting their position.

For the court to modify child custody, the change must be significant. Therefore, the parent petitioning the court for a modification of custody has the burden of proving the change in circumstances is significant to warrant a judgment modification

Do You Have Additional Questions About New Jersey Child Custody Case?

A Bergen County child custody lawyer is the best source for information about custody matters in New Jersey. An attorney explains New Jersey child custody laws and your options for seeking a custody arrangement that protects your children. 

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