If you are a parent going through a divorce you greatly love your child, and you may naturally be worried about how to keep a positive relationship with your child knowing that you may have to share child custody with your ex. It can help to have a basic understanding of New Jersey child custody laws.
Under New Jersey law, legal custody refers to the ability of parents to make major decisions regarding the child’s needs and upbringing. For example, if you have legal custody, you can decide which religion your child will practice, where your child will receive an education and which physicians your child will see.
Legal custody can be sole or joint. If you have sole legal custody, you have the exclusive right to make major decisions on your child’s upbringing. If you have joint legal custody, you and your ex will have to consult with one another when making major decisions regarding your child’s upbringing. Generally, courts prefer to award joint legal custody.
Under New Jersey law, physical custody refers to where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. If you have sole physical custody your ex will likely have visitation rights. This means that your child will live with you a majority of the time and your ex will have regular visitation periods, perhaps, every other weekend and for several weeks during the summer.
Parents can share joint physical custody. If so, you and your ex will share roughly equal time with your child, although it may not be an exact 50/50 split.
The best interests of the child
Ultimately, courts will base legal and physical custody decisions on the best interests of the child. Parents can also negotiate a child custody agreement that can be approved by the court and made enforceable. What is important is that, if appropriate, your child will spend enough time with you and your ex to develop a healthy, loving relationship with both of you.