Upon separation or divorce, there are many arrangements to make for children. One important area involves custody arrangements.
Legal and Residential Custody
There are two aspects of child custody arrangements parents must consider when they separate or divorce. The first is sole or joint legal custody. “Legal custody” concerns the parents’ ability to participate in decision making regarding the children’s health, education, and welfare. Exercising joint legal custody also ensures that a noncustodial parent can access personal information about the child such as educational and medical information. “Physical or residential custody” concerns which parent will assume the role of primary residential custodial or whether both parents will share physical custody equally or a different arrangement. The parties will enter into an agreement regarding parenting time, including a regular, holiday, and vacation schedule.
New Jersey’s superior courts have jurisdiction to issue court orders pertaining to a child’s education, custody, and financial support when the child’s parents are separated or divorcing. The court uses a “best interests of the child” standard. While a divorce is proceeding, the court can issue temporary orders pertaining to education, custody and financial support. The courts will attempt to facilitate an arrangement where both parents can be an active part of the child’s life absent unusual circumstances, such as child abuse.
It is usually best when parents can work together to determine their own parenting plan rather than leaving it up to a judge who does not know the parties well.
You can work out your own arrangements through mediation. Anytime custody is contested, the judge will refer the case to mediation. If the parties do not resolve the issues in mediation, the county mental health professionals and/or a private mental health professional will conduct a Best Interests Evaluation, and issue recommendations.
If you have a child custody matter to resolve, consult with an experienced family law attorney to assess your options.