5 Things to Know About Child Custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, child custody arrangements focus solely on the best interests of the child. This standard influences how New Jersey courts create custody arrangements, determine child support, share parenting time and other responsibilities, and sometimes limits their out-of-state travel.

Custody arrangements

New Jersey courts create custody arrangements in the “best interests of the child.” Similarly, the New Jersey legislature believes contact with both parents is in the child’s best interest. However, depending on the individual circumstances, the courts consider non-exclusive factors.

These factors include the child’s needs, the home environment’s stability, the relationship between the parents, and their ability to communicate and cooperate with one another, etc. When parents cannot agree to a child custody arrangement, the court consults an impartial expert such as a physician or psychologist.

Determining child support

Since calculating child support is one of the more stressful steps of the child custody process, New Jersey created guidelines to help determine child support amounts. New Jersey enforces these guidelines because the state believes children are entitled to receive benefits from both parents’ incomes, viewing child support as the child’s right.

In addition, both parents have a duty to contribute financially to their child’s health and development. To expedite this process, most family law attorneys and courtrooms have computer software to calculate the respective child support amounts.

Consideration of the primary residence

Since children usually spend more time in one residence, the calculation must be adjusted. In other words, even if the parents have an evenly divided custody arrangement, the court will not assume one parent to be the parent of primary residence because it would be financially unfair. Therefore, New Jersey courts will correct this calculation to require proportionate financial contributions. 

Parenting time

In general, parents cannot refuse to share parenting time without a justifiable reason because it would impact the child’s relationship with the other parent. However, if one parent believes their child’s health or safety is at risk with the other parent, consult a family law attorney or agency to assist. Do not make matters into your own hands and refuse parenting time, especially if a court order exists.

Disobeying any court order likely results in a greater punishment to the offending parent, then the one that is suspected to be harming the child. When no court order requires parenting time exists, a parent can refuse parenting time but should be done carefully and in consultation with a family law attorney. 

Traveling out of New Jersey

An applicable New Jersey statute indicates if custody has ever been an issue between the two parents, leaving the state is illegal. In other words, if both parents have been to court over a dispute about the child’s custody, then leaving the state of New Jersey is a crime. Confusion exists for relocation and travel as a recent court case examined whether a parent could move within New Jersey.

The court held that although the child was not required to seek court permission before moving, court intervention was important because the move might disrupt the custody arrangement. Overall, because the courts prioritize the child’s best interest, consultation with a family law attorney before such big moves can help avoid later legal problems. 


In other words, because New Jersey so greatly prioritizes the child’s health and safety, parents navigating this new terrain should be prepared to make concessions for their child’s interest, leaving any possible hard feelings to the side. Fortunately, for the lucky couples able to maintain a cordial relationship with one another and even those that are not, the court’s focus on the child’s best interest ensures that no parent “wins” or “loses” but the child is the ultimate winner.

Call (732) 449-0449 to schedule a consultation with Anthony J. Cafaro, P.C. in our Sea Girt office.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.