When New Jersey parents split up, there must be a decision on child custody. The laws are based on the child’s best interests.
New Jersey child custody laws
New Jersey prefers to have both parents equally involved in the child’s life. The two parts of custody are legal and physical. Legal custody means that the parent has the right to make all decisions on behalf of the child such as educational, medical, religion and more. One or both parents can be granted this type of custody.
Sole legal custody means that one parent has the right to make all decisions regarding the child’s welfare. Sole physical custody sees the child living with one parent while the other parent has visitation.
Joint physical custody refers to both parents having custody of their child. It means that the child shares their time between both parents, spending some time with one and then other time with the other parent. Often, the state will consider giving both parents 50/50 parenting time with their children unless circumstances make it unfavorable.
When a parent is considered unfit
A parent may be considered unfit to have custody in certain situations. A history of domestic violence, especially if the abuse was directed toward the child, will reflect negatively to the court. Neglect is equally serious and constitutes an unfit parent.
In some cases, a history of alcohol or drug abuse can prevent a parent from gaining custody. If one parent has been largely absent while the other has served as the child’s primary caretaker, the court may not consider awarding that parent custody. However, visitation may be awarded.
The court bases its decisions on child custody on what’s in the child’s best interests. When the child is old enough, their wishes are often considered as well.