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How Is Child Custody Determined In NJ


New Jersey family court will always decide child custody “in the best interests of the child.” State law requires that both parents have equal custody rights:

  • Joint custody typically refers to the legal custody of a child/children in the decision(s) made about the child’s daily life or to the physical custody. Quite often, joint custody means that a child lives with one parent most of the time but spends some time with his or her other parent on a frequent basis or alternatively resides with both parents.
  • Sole custody means one of the parents has sole legal and/or physical custody or both. The sole custodial parent is granted the power to make decisions about the child and maintains physical custody of the child. The other parent, referred to as the non-custodial parent, is provided with parenting time (depending on the facts of the case).
  • When both parents share custody of the child, it’s possible that one parent pays the other child support. However, shared custody typically indicates the likelihood of an adjustment to the support obligation.
  • Family court may consider the child’s desire to live with one parent over another. The child’s desires don’t determine the judge’s decision.
  • Grandparents may have visitation rights or custody in limited situations. Grandparents bear the burden of proof that his or her visitation rights are in the child’s best interests. The court must also consider additional factors, including the child-grandparent relationship and the wishes of his or her biological parents.

Parenting Plan

When a child’s parents can’t agree on the custody arrangement, both parties must submit an individual parenting plan to the family court. The plan establishes the parent’s proposal for the type of custody arrangement to be awarded as well as parenting time schedules such as holidays. The plan must include relevant information about the parent and his or her employment.

Determination of Child Custody

The court’s decision regarding custody may be determined after the court considers responses and mediation in most cases. There are exceptions.

A trial may be scheduled if mediation between the parents is unsuccessful. The family court may require the Family Division to investigate the fitness and character of the parents and the proposed environment he or she will provide for the child or children.

Custody Decisions

Custody determination is made in the child’s best interests, including the following factors:

  • Parents demonstrate cooperation in matters concerning the child(ren).
  • Parents communicate in matters concerning the child(ren).
  • Parents facilitate the child’s interaction with both parents (and siblings).
  • Parents collectively consider the child’s continuity/quality of education.

The court carefully considers families with a history of domestic violence.

Questions about Child Custody?

Contact Hanlon Dunn Robertson Schwartz to discuss questions about New Jersey child custody at 800-481-9840 or via our online contact form now.


The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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