Approximately 30% of the children living in New Jersey reside in a single-parent home. This is slightly below the national average of roughly 34%. Child custody proceedings are handled through the New Jersey Family Courts. The courts maintain a broad commitment to make child custody decisions according to what is in the best interests of the minor.
Understanding Child Custody
Minor children are those less than 18 years of age. All minors must have a parent or guardian that is responsible for their care. Custody may be physical or legal. Physical custody arrangements involve a minor residing with a particular parent or guardian in their home. This parent or guardian is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the child.
Legal custody rights involve a particular parent or guardian that has responsibility for making key decisions on behalf of the minor. They may include decisions that relate to the child's medical care, education, religious upbringing, and others. Custody rights may be awarded to a single parent or guardian, creating sole legal custody. It also may be awarded to both parents in joint custody arrangements.
Factors Considered in Custody Decisions
Courts may consider several factors in making custody awards that are consistent with what is in the child's best interest. They may ponder some of the following about the parties:
- The party's capability of providing a safe and stable home atmosphere
- Any past incidents of domestic violence or abuse
- Existing custody arrangements of siblings (when applicable)
- Depending on the child's age and level of maturity, their preference may be a factor
- Their capacity to arrange for childcare
- Any past problems with alcohol and/or drugs and more
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a written outline containing each party's parental responsibilities. Ideally, this plan is drafted by the parties and an agreement is reached; however, the court may need to order that the parties enter some form of mediation. Plans should include a schedule that assigns visitation times and the arrangements for vacations and holidays.
Existing Custody Arrangements of Siblings
Courts have long acknowledged that implementing the same physical custody arrangements among siblings is beneficial. The New Jersey Department of Children and Families explored this topic and reported some convincing data confirming this. They found that when siblings shared a home they tended to enjoy more stability and family support.
Supervised Parenting Time (Visitation)
In some cases, a court may order that visitation times be supervised by a third-party. Often this requirement is necessary when the judge believes that the child's safety may be at risk. Across the state, agencies have established local community settings that will host parenting time. Courts recognize the importance of maintaining communication between the child and parent.
New Jersey Attorney for Child Custody Cases
Court cases that involve your immediate family such as those associated with child custody can be emotional and challenging. Joseph D. Lento is a local lawyer that has been providing effective representation for clients in the Gloucester County region for many years. Please contact the office at (888) 535-3686 for a case evaluation.