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Understanding New Jersey Child Custody Law
When trying to comprehend child custody law in New Jersey, finding a source that is easy to follow is critical. Even though the statutes in the state are similar to those elsewhere, there are some specific differences. Take a further look at how child custody issues are handled in the Garden State.
The difference between custody and visitation
Child custody may not mean what many unfamiliar with the process believe. The name implies the physical act of having the children in a parent's care. However, when a court talks about custody, it is referring to a legal concept. According to FindLaw, legal custody is guardianship and the right to decide things such as education, medical care, and religious practices. Courts usually give parents joint legal custody unless one parent is not fit. In that case, a court may grant the other parent sole legal custody but give the unqualified parent visitation rights.
Essential elements of New Jersey's child custody law
The court system prefers parents to work together and agree on child custody and visitation. When this is not possible, a judge steps in and decides. Failure to reach a compromise may not work out in either parent's favor since it gives control to a third party. It is in everyone's best interest for parents to reach an agreement to present to the judge since a number of elements go into a custody proceeding.
Factors judges consider when ruling on custody
The laws dictate that the court must examine custody and visitation agreements carefully to ensure that they are in the best interests of the children. This standard is common throughout the country. The judge examines and takes into account several factors:
- The relationship between each parent and the children
- The age of the children
- The mental stability/fitness of the parents
- The willingness of each parent to foster a positive relationship between the children and each parent
The judge may request more evidence or ask the parents clarifying questions. Barring anything harmful to the children, the judge may give parents joint legal custody. This means both have an equal say in how the children are raised and the ability to make decisions on medical intervention when the children are in their care.
Creating a parenting schedule
A document called a parenting plan details the agreement between the parties on how the children will be raised and whether they will make decisions together. Within the parenting plan, the parenting time schedule details the period children will spend with each parent. This parenting time should be specific and comprehensive. It may simply not be enough to say that the children spend every other weekend with one parent or the other. This may leave the agreement open to interpretation and set parents on a course to return to court for a modification. Instead, spouses should put as much detail into the parenting plan and parenting time schedule as possible to avoid ambiguities.
Understanding New Jersey's child custody law may help couples reach compromises quicker. Agreeing on the terms of custody and visitation demonstrates to the court that parents are willing to set aside personal differences for the best interest of the children.
NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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