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Child custody: Understand various types before heading to court

A decision to divorce typically prompts many family life changes. Child custody issues often are a central focus of New Jersey divorce proceedings. There are numerous types of custody, and the more a parent understands the legal implications of each type, the easier it will be for him or her to navigate the family justice system.

Most people are familiar with physical custody. This basically refers to where children will live, and more specifically, with whom they will live after a divorce is finalized. When one parent is granted full-time custody, the other parent is usually assigned a visitation schedule. In certain circumstances, such visitation might be supervised or restricted in some way.

Legal custody pertains to decision-making authority. If parents share legal custody, they have equal say in making decisions regarding their children's education, religious practices, health and other issues. If only one parent has legal custody, the other parent does not need to be consulted in such matters.

Many New Jersey parents share physical and legal child custody in divorce. In fact, the court typically believes this type of agreement is in the children's best interests. If at any time, however, one parent tries to impede the other parent's relationship with his or her children or somehow undermines his or her parental rights, litigation may be necessary to resolve the issue. An existing court order is legally enforceable, and a parent who refuses to adhere may be held in contempt. An experienced family law attorney can advocate on behalf of a concerned parent in court.

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