If a spouse feels like their marriage is nearing its end and no amount of therapy or conversation will be enough to avoid a divorce, chances are that the very first consideration is the children.
Like any other couple that goes through separation or divorce, child custody is a parent’s foremost concern. In the state of New Jersey, in particular, separating couples should be familiar with the local laws surrounding child custody.
Here is an overview of what someone contemplating divorce needs to know about child custody laws in the state of New Jersey.
Overview of Child Custody Laws in New Jersey
Although child custody laws in New Jersey are similar to those in other states, there is still an assortment of distinctions that it possesses, all of which must be considered during the separation process. After all, every parent wants to establish optimal conditions for post-separation parenting.
To help ensure that a spouse is best informed, it is important to review the key facts. Before someone starts looking into the idea of child custody during the separation or divorce process, it is important to first look at its two foremost parts: physical and legal custody.
Physical custody. The concept of physical custody refers to a status that determines which spouse or party the children live with on a regular basis. Typically, this status can be shared by both parents or granted to just one parent, depending on the outcome of the separation and custody process.
Legal custody. On the other hand, legal custody is a legal concept that refers to the status given to the parent who has the right to make decisions regarding the child. As children grow up, certain decisions must be made regarding their medical, educational, social, and many other needs.
In terms of legal custody, parents can be granted joint or sole custody, defined as follows:
- Joint legal custody. This is a status wherein both parents will equally share in the decision-making process.
- Sole legal custody. This is a status wherein one parent is bestowed with the right to make the final decisions concerning the child or children.
Joint Custody Arrangements in New Jersey
In most cases, the state of New Jersey leans toward 50/50 custody when it comes to joint custody arrangements.
Although courts tend to favor joint legal and joint physical custody arrangements, it is worth noting that they make decisions based primarily on the best interests of the child or children involved. Unless there is an unfit parent in the picture, New Jersey’s legal system prefers custody agreements that allow the child to maintain relationships with both of their parents.
When can a Child Choose a Parent With Whom to Live?
When a child involved in a custody process is over 12 years old, the New Jersey courts see them as fit enough to express their wishes in a manner that may be considered. However, a child can truly exhibit independence in choosing which parent to live with only when they turn 18 years old, the legal age of maturity.
Legal custody in the context of New Jersey law can be quite confusing to handle because of all its varying complexities. By considering the critical points mentioned above, those divorcing can best circumvent said challenges and settle all custody matters efficiently.
Going through the legal process of establishing child custody can be a confusing process. The Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. are here to help. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.