There is a big difference between the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR), but before one can truly understand those differences, there first should be an understanding of the overall custody scheme in New Jersey.
When the parents of a minor child(ren) live separately, or are about to do so, the New Jersey Superior Court has the power to make judgments or orders concerning the child(rens) care, custody, education and maintenance. Within that process, it is important to define parental roles for everyday decision making and day to day custody, and to have those roles memorialized in writing – and if necessary, by the court.
In general, your right as a parent to be a part of the everyday decision making in your child’s life is protected under the New Jersey child custody statute, N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4. As stated by the New Jersey legislature “it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy.” N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4.
When it comes to custody itself, New Jersey courts recognize numerous custody arrangements. Until the court makes a determination as to final custody, and unless the parties agree otherwise, the court must determine temporary custody based upon the best interests of the child with due regard to the caretaking arrangement that previously existed before the parties separated. This means that if one parent was the sole breadwinner, while the other party was the stay at home parent, the court will likely take the previous status quo into consideration before creating an order.
An order for custody can include legal and residential custody as stated in the statute:
- Joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include:
- Provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child; and
- Provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare;
- Sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent; or
- Any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.
[N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4.]
However, if the parties are in agreement about the type of custody arrangement they desire for their children, “[t]he court shall order any custody arrangement which is agreed to by both parents unless it is contrary to the best interests of the child,” and “[i]n any case in which the parents cannot agree to a custody arrangement, the court may require each parent to submit a custody plan which the court shall consider in awarding custody.” N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4 (d);(e).
If the parties or the court determine that custody will be joint legal and sole residential, the court will designate one parent as the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) and the other Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR). However, In situations in which parents share equal parenting time or have joint residential custody, there may not be designations of PPR and Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR).
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines found on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website at define these terms, as does the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division’s decision in Benisch:
- Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) – The parent with whom the child spends most of his or her overnight time. The primary residence is the home where the child resides for more than 50% of the overnights annually.
- If the time spent with each parent is equal (50% of overnights each), the PPR is the parent with whom the child resides while attending school….
- Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR) – This is the parent with whom the child resides when not living in the primary residence.
- [Benisch v. Benisch, 347 N.J. Super. 393, 395-96 (App. Div. 2002).]
In general, once a PPR is chosen, the Courts will give more deference to that parent’s decision making authority than to the PPR. Also, the PPR is usually the parent who receives child support, while the PAR is usually the parent who pays child support. Finally, the PPR is usually the parent with more responsibility, including the responsibility to keep the PAR informed and matters that impact the child’s overall welfare.