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Making the decision to divorce is a difficult one, particularly if you have children. Once the decision has been made, however, it is important that any child custody arrangements are made with the best interest of the child in mind. When parents cannot come to an agreement, courts will take matters into their own hands to ensure that the child’s needs are taken care of.

Joint custody or sole custody?

New Jersey courts will decide on both physical and legal custody of the child. The court may determine that one parent gets primary physical custody, while the other parent is awarded parenting time, or determine that both parents should share physical custody. The court will also decide on legal custody, by determining if one parent should be responsible for making major decisions relating to the child, or if both parents should share that responsibility.

What factors do courts consider when determining custody?

Courts will consider a number of factors when deciding which parent will get physical and/or legal custody of the child. These factors include:

  • Risks to the child’s safety and stability (e.g. substance abuse issues, domestic violence)
  • Ability and willingness of each parent to care for the child
  • Role of each parent in child’s life prior to the divorce
  • Child’s education and needs
  • Distance between parents’ homes
  • Employment, education, and income of each parent
  • Living environment provided by each parent

Courts prefer to have both parents involved in the child’s life, so a parent will typically not be deemed ‘unfit’ unless their involvement in the child’s life would significantly impact the child in a negative way.

An attorney can help with your child custody dispute

Parents may have a difficult time agreeing on a parenting plan that is in the best interest of their child without assistance. An attorney can help you come up with a plan that works best for your family.