Going through a divorce is always going to be a difficult situation. During this time, you will be formally ending a very serious relationship, will have to find an appropriate way to split assets, and ultimately will go your separate ways in life. A divorce can be made even more complicated and challenging when kids are involved. The process of determining child custody can be very stressful for both parents and the children involved. In the state of New Jersey, there are several factors that can influence how child custody is determined in a divorce.
Legal vs Physical Custody
In the state of New Jersey, family law will appoint both physical and legal custody, both of which can be held jointly, and one parent can obtain sole custody. Physical custody refers to who will be the primary caregiver and where the child will reside and spend their time. Legal custody tends to refer to who has the right to make various choices including those regarding the child’s education, medical treatment, and other important decisions. It is possible for the share of custody to be different between physical and legal custody. In a situation where the parents may not live near each other, one parent may have sole physical custody but will still share legal custody.
State Will Aim for 50/50 Custody
Similar to some other states, the state of New Jersey aims to ensure that custody is balanced as much as possible. The state prefers this as it helps to ensure that the children have a relationship with both of their parents, and it can help ensure a smoother transition when the divorce is over. When both parents agree to joint custody, it will typically result in a 50/50 share for both legal and physical custody.
Unfit Parent Can Impact Share of Custody
While the state and family law court in New Jersey will typically aim to have shared custody between both parents, there are situations when this is not practical. If one of the parents is deemed to be unfit, it could result in the other parent receiving a larger share of the custody or sole custody.
For a parent to be considered unfit, they will typically need to meet some criteria that will show they put the child at risk by being a caregiver. Some examples that can result in a parent being deemed unfit can include if the parent has a history of physical abuse or neglect, alcohol or drug abuse, a serious criminal record, or has not been involved in the care of the child in the past.
Child’s Choice for Custody
Another factor that can influence who is provided custody of the children during a divorce is who the children choose to be their guardians. While it is typically advisable that you do not make a child choose who they will live with, there are situations when it will be taken into consideration. Most of the time, a judge will not take the child’s preferences into consideration until they are the age of 12, but the best interest of the child will always be the leading factor.
What is the Best Interest of the Child?
Ultimately, all the aforementioned factors will be taken into consideration when trying to determine the right solution for child custody. However, the judge will end up considering the best interest of the child to determine who should have custody. Some other factors involved can include whether custody would require the child to move and switch schools or if one parent will provide a more stable support system for the child following the divorce.
Child Support Considerations
While determining who will have custody of the child is important, determining the financial considerations for raising the kids are important as well. Generally, each parent is responsible for paying for food, housing, and other expenses when they are caring for the child. In cases in which one parent takes on full custody or earns a higher income than the other, a monthly payment made from one parent to the other could be required.
If you are going through a divorce and have children with your spouse, determining how your kids will be cared for and raised as well as the structure of custody is going to be a top priority. If you are in New Jersey and want to come to a fair child custody agreement, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced attorney that is knowledgeable about the law in this state. A divorce and family law attorney will be able to provide a variety of services to ensure you are properly represented and receive the best custody arrangement possible, which will ensure you continue to be an active participant in your children’s life long after the divorce is finalized.