Guide to Child Custody Laws in New Jersey
New Jersey parents going through a divorce or custody dispute should make sure that they are up to date on the state's custody laws. Child custody laws in New Jersey allow judges to have a considerable amount of leeway in making a child custody order based on the best interest of the child, but most courts prefer to handle custody with a written plan agreed to by both parents. This guide will explain your options so that you can more easily get the custody plan you want.
Can Children Decide?
If a child has sufficient age and mental capacity to make an informed, intelligent decision about their preferences for custody, the judge in a custody case will take those wishes into account when drafting a custody order.
However, no child under the age of 18 may unilaterally decide which parent to live with according to child custody laws in New Jersey. The standard governing custody is the child's best interest, and if a judge believes living with the other parent would better satisfy that standard, the child's wishes may be ignored.
Most of the time, parents prefer not to have a full, adversarial hearing to determine the future of their parental relationships with their child. Instead, developing a parenting plan to divide parental responsibilities can save money, time, and heartache.
If you cannot develop a parenting plan in conjunction with your child's other parent, child custody laws in New Jersey allow judges to ask each parent for their own parenting plan. When these parenting plans are completed, the judge will examine them both for disagreements. The judge may at this point refer the parents to mediation, at which point a mediator will help them resolve any outstanding disagreements.
Child custody laws in New Jersey consider parenting time to be the right of all parents. The division of parenting time can be one of the most contentious issues in a custody hearing, but generally, the courts will determine parenting time schedules only if the parents cannot come to an agreement.
The amount of parenting time each parent will be awarded should be enough, according to child custody laws in New Jersey, to give the child frequent and continuing contact with both parents. This enables a child to maintain parental relationships even though parenting time has been divided.
Legal custody refers to the ability of parents to make legal decisions about their child. If a judge needs to issue an order about legal custody, he or she is likely to take into account not only the child's wishes and those of their parents, but also the previous level of decisionmaking responsibility each parent had for the child and their ability to make a good decision.
When parents share legal custody, they must share in the decisionmaking process about their child's education, health, and religion. If a parent is granted sole legal custody, the other parent no longer needs to be brought into the decision, but must be informed after a decision is made.