Many fathers who go through a divorce in New Jersey wonder what their rights are and mistakenly assume they have fewer rights than the child's mother. Although the courts used to automatically give custody over children to their mothers, this practice is no longer valid. New Jersey courts grant equal rights to mothers and fathers regarding custody, child support, and other parenting agreements following a divorce.
Don't assume that your rights are limited or that you have no chance of getting primary custody over your kids simply because you're the father and not the mother. If you can show that you can provide what's in your child's best interests, the courts can view it as a legitimate claim. This guide to father's rights in New Jersey divorces will help you better understand what you should ask for and how to ask for it regarding your child's wellbeing.
Child Custody Laws in New Jersey
N. J. S. A. Title 9:2-4 states that both parents are equal in any custody proceeding in New Jersey. The state also encourages parents to share rights and responsibilities of child-rearing as much as possible. To that end, the following types of custody are available in New Jersey:
- Joint custody: The parents share legal and physical custody of the child.
- Sole custody: One parent receives primary custody with appropriate parenting time allowed to the noncustodial parent.
- Any custody arrangement the court sees fit for the child's best interests
Some custody cases in New Jersey work out with one parent getting sole custody, leaving them primarily responsible for the child's welfare, health, and education and allowing visitation rights to the noncustodial parent.
It's also possible for parents to share physical and legal custody of children equally, however. When deciding custody orders, the courts look at several factors listed in N. J. S. A. Title 9:2-4, including:
- Whether the parents are agreeable with each other
- Communication between the two parents
- The geographic proximity of the parents' homes
- The relationship of the child with their parents and siblings
- The parent's employment responsibilities
- The quality and continuity of the child's education
- The stability of the home environment offered
- The age and number of children
- History of domestic violence, if any
Two parents may often share legal custody of a child, meaning they can both make decisions regarding the child's health and medical care, education, and general welfare. Shared physical custody, or the physical place where the child resides, is more difficult to share. Both parents can have equal time to spend with the child, or one parent can become the designated "primary" residence where the child spends most of their time and the other parent has the "alternate" residence with a set visitation schedule. The court may grant one parent sole physical custody, assigning a child only one primary residence, but allowing parenting time and visitation for the other parent.
You can read more detail about child custody and how each type of custody works in our guide to child custody in New Jersey.
Relocation Out of State
After going through a divorce, many couples may desire to put some physical distance between themselves. Relocation could impact the child's best interests, so it's important to speak with a family law attorney if you are considering relocating outside New Jersey and wish to have partial or full custody of your child.
For the most part, if a parent can prove that an out-of-state move is not done in order to alienate the other spouse from their child, the court can grant the request and set up visitation arrangements. How you request a parental relocation depends on whether you're currently going through a custody proceeding or if you already have a custody order in place.
Child Support in New Jersey
In New Jersey, both parents are equally responsible for child support. After two parents have gone through a divorce, they must both contribute to the costs of raising their children based on their earnings, not their gender. The courts use the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines to calculate child support. They don't usually deviate from these guidelines unless there's a show of good cause.
When the courts do take other factors into account apart from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, these factors may include:
- The parents' income
- How much time each parent spends with the child
- The parents' debt, if any
- The parents' respective earning capacities, educational histories, skills, and work experience
- Expenses each parent has historically paid for throughout the child's life
- Non-income-producing assets for each of the parents
- The child's health, age, income, assets, and earning ability
If, after the child support order goes through, you find the other parent is not contributing what they're supposed to, you may be able to attribute additional income to them, so they pay the proper amount based on their income.
You can read more about New Jersey child support, including how to file for child support, modify a child support order, and more in our full guide to child support.
Call a New Jersey Family Law Attorney Who Protects Fathers' Rights
If you are a father going through a divorce and aren't sure what your rights are when it comes to your children, you're not alone. Divorce and custody proceedings can be complex and overwhelming, so you shouldn't try to take it on alone. You also shouldn't assume you don't have equal rights with your former spouse. New Jersey courts usually presume that a child's best interest is active and equal participation from both parents in all aspects of life. Consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and help you stand up for your rights.
Joseph D. Lento helps New Jersey families dealing with divorce, child custody, and child support proceedings with empathy, understanding, and experience with New Jersey family law. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686.