When the parents of children split up, either through a divorce or through a different sort of breakup, they must decide who will care for their children and what type of custody they will each have. Child custody is a legal term that describes the rights and responsibilities of parents concerning their children. Every state has its own rules and procedures to determine what type of custody each parent may receive, and New Jersey is no different.
Child custody is usually decided based on the laws of the state where the children reside. While most parents cannot choose where their case will be located, there are many different distinctions between the way New Jersey determines child custody compared to other states. Some of the more interesting distinctions include:
Mandatory Parenting Classes in Divorce
When married parents seek a divorce, New Jersey law requires that they attend parenting classes to finalize their divorce. The New Jersey Parent Education Program is mandatory under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-123 and requires each spouse to attend. During this program, parents will work with a family mediator and licensed clinical social workers to understand how their divorce will affect their children and learn how to co-parent productively after divorce.
Grandparents' Visitation Rights
The custodial parent of a child has the right to determine who can be involved in the child's life and have a relationship with that child. In most cases, it is up to the parents if a grandparent or sibling can visit with their child. However, sometimes family relationships break down, and parents may deny a relationship to someone who was previously involved in the child's life. In those instances, grandparents and siblings may petition a family law court for visitation of the child if it would be in the child's best interests.
No Presumption of Shared Custody
For most of the previous century, family courts assumed that the mother of the children should have primary custody. Today, this assumption is generally invalid, and almost all states presume that parents should share custody unless there is a reason not to. In nearly 20 states, lawmakers have codified this presumption into law so that both parents start out with a presumption of equal time sharing. While New Jersey's legislature has proposed such legislation, it has not yet been passed in the Garden State.
Instead of a presumption of joint custody, New Jersey law states that the rights of both parents are equal and both parents should be considered in custody matters. This does not mean that both parents get equal time, however. The judge making the custody determination will consider many factors, including the parents' ability to communicate and cooperate in the best interests of the child, when determining how parents should split their time with their children.
We Can Help With Child Custody Matters
No matter where you are located in the country, child custody matters almost always comes down to doing what is in the best interests of the children. At the Lento Law Firm, our New Jersey family law professionals understand that time with your children is precious and important. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you create a parenting plan that fits your family's needs. Call 888.535.3686 and schedule your appointment today.