New Jersey Child Custody FAQ

New Jersey Child Custody FAQ

If you’re dealing with child custody issues in New Jersey, you probably have many questions about how it works. Child custody can be emotional and complicated, so let’s answer some common questions to help you understand it better.

How Is Child Custody Determined in New Jersey?

How Is Child Custody Determined in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, child custody is determined based on the best interest of the child. Custody terms are outlined in a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule. The court will order a parenting schedule considering various factors, as outlined in N.J.S.A. §9:2-4.

What Factors Does the Court Consider in Determining Parenting Time?

The court considers several factors when determining parenting time. 

Some essential factors include:

  • The child’s age and needs
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse
  • The child’s preference (if of sufficient age, maturity, and understanding)

Consult an experienced family law attorney in Bergen County, NJ, to understand better how these factors apply to your situation.

Is Joint Custody Possible in New Jersey?

Yes, joint custody, or shared parenting time, is possible in New Jersey. The court may order a parenting time arrangement. This allows both parents to be part of the child’s life, sharing responsibilities and decision-making.

When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

The court may allow the child to choose which parent to live with. They will give reasonable consideration to the child’s preference. The court wants to deem that the child fully understands their situation. They also want the child to be old enough to have the experience to express a preference. These factors and other considerations determine parenting time.

When Will Child Custody Be Decided?

Child custody arrangements can be determined temporarily during the proceedings and finalized at the final hearing.

What Can I Expect From Temporary Orders?

Temporary orders may include provisions for temporary child support, parenting time, alimony, and exclusive use and possession of the marital home. These orders are established during the pending paternity or divorce proceedings.

When Can Child Custody Be Modified?

Child custody can be modified if there has been a material, unanticipated, substantial change in circumstances since the initial parenting plan was ordered. The requested modification must be in the children’s best interests.

What Is Visitation in New Jersey?

New Jersey doesn’t refer to “visitation” between parents and children. Instead, parents have “parenting time,” which refers to their time with their children according to a court order or agreement.

Can a Judge Order Supervised Visits or No Visits?

In cases involving severe mental health disorders, substance abuse, or violence, a judge may order supervised parenting time or, in extreme cases, no parenting time. Child protective services may also become involved in such situations.

Do Grandparents Have Custody and Visitation Rights in New Jersey?

Visitation rights for grandparents are possible. The court considers various factors, including the best interests of the child and developing life circumstances, in its decision. 

One example is if a parent in the military is away or deployed for more than 90 days. The court can approve a family member or stepfamily, including grandparents, to spend time with the child.

How Is Child Support Calculated in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines clarify how to calculate child support in New Jersey. 

These guidelines consider: 

  • Both parents’ income
  • The number of parent overnights with the child
  • Health insurance costs
  • Daycare expenses 

As the percentage of time-sharing increases for one parent, their child support obligation may decrease.

Can Visitation Be Denied If Child Support Is Not Paid?

No, New Jersey law treats child support and parenting time as separate issues. Unpaid child support is not a relevant factor when determining parenting time. However, child support payments must be made as ordered by the court.

What Is a Parenting Plan, and Do I Need One?

Every parent knows how busy life can become. A parenting plan is a document meant to clearly state how each parent will support in the various aspects of parenting. These documents help organize time-sharing schedules, holiday arrangements, education, and communication. 

In New Jersey, the court is vital in facilitating this process. The court will establish a parenting plan in every action for paternity or dissolution of marriage involving common children.

What If Parents Cannot Agree on Custody?

If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will intervene and order a schedule based on the children’s best interests. If a party fails to participate in the legal process, a court may order an ex-parte order

What Is an Ex-Parte Order?

An ex-parte order is an order made by the court without the other party’s involvement or with limited notice. This typically occurs in emergencies, and the court may rule without a formal hearing. Often, it must be shown that an attempt was made to notify the missing party. 

Can Separation Agreement Terms Regarding Custody and Support Be Included in the Divorce Decree?

Yes, you can include the terms of a separation agreement related to child custody and support in the final divorce judgment. However, the court can modify these terms if there is a substantial change in circumstances and the court decides it is in the children’s best interests.

How Can I Increase My Chances of Receiving a Favorable Custody Agreement?

To increase your chances of obtaining a favorable custody arrangement, you must be actively involved in your child’s life, promote a healthy relationship with the other parent, and maintain a consistent routine when you have parenting time. Demonstrating your commitment to your child’s well-being is crucial.

Do Courts Favor Mothers Over Fathers in Custody Disputes?

New Jersey courts no longer favor one parent over the other based on gender. The courts now ensure that both parents are given equitable consideration in determining custody. The court will ultimately decide which parent receives custody based on the child’s best interests.

Can I Collect My Own Evidence for a Custody Case?

An experienced New Jersey family law attorney is the first person you want to contact. They can help determine the best approach for gathering and presenting evidence in your custody case. An attorney can guide you on the proper procedures and help you build a strong case.

What If My Spouse Tries to Move the Kids Out of State?

If your spouse or the other parent attempts to move the child out of state, it’s crucial to take prompt legal action. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to petition the court to prevent the move or address the matter within an existing case.

What If I Want to Change My Child’s Last Name?

Every parent knows seeking to change a child’s last name is a big decision. The court provides a process to hear both parent’s perspectives.

The parent wanting to make the change must petition the court. As part of this process, the court requires that the other parent be served the petition. A court hearing will be scheduled if the other parent does not want this change to happen. The court will grant the name change if it is determined to be in the child’s best interests.