In New Jersey, the court’s primary concern in determining custody is the best interests of the child. Typically, that would mean the child must have frequent and continuing contact with both parents even after a divorce. Courts will always begin with the assumption that shared custody is the optimal arrangement for the child and that both parents have equal parental rights under the law.
However, the court may award full custody to only one parent under certain circumstances. It usually only happens when the other parent is deemed unfit, or it is proven that joint custody would be detrimental to the child. So, yes, you can get full custody of your kids, but it will not be easy.
Circumstances that can influence an award of sole custody
The term “full custody” can refer to sole legal custody, which means you would have the exclusive legal right to make significant decisions for your children. It could also refer to sole physical custody, meaning your kids will only live and stay with you, but the parent without physical custody may still have visitation rights. Although, full custody could also refer to sole legal and physical custody, giving you all rights and responsibilities to your child. Obtaining sole custody is rare, but it can happen under the following circumstances:
- When the other parent has a history of domestic violence or abuse
- When the other parent has an active substance abuse problem
- When the other parent continually violates court orders and custody arrangements
- When the other parent is significantly absent from the child’s life
- When the other parent has mental health problems that could adversely and directly affect the child
If you are seeking sole custody in New Jersey, you should provide evidence that such an arrangement would be in the best interest of your kids.
Sole custody is a privilege
The goal of securing sole custody should be to give your kids a safe, nurturing and loving home. It is not about using the kids to get back at your former spouse. Therefore, it is not enough to prove the other parent is unfit. You must also demonstrate that you are willing and capable of taking on the responsibilities that come with being the sole guardian.