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How does the court determine child custody in New Jersey?

If you share a child with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, the finalization of your divorce does not sever your relationship with your former partner and mean you will have no further contact. Rather, you must continue to work together to share the rights and responsibilities of raising your child.

When decisions regarding custody fall to the court, several factors play a role in the decisions made. Understanding how the state determines child custody awards may help you create a plan suited to you, your child, and your family’s unique needs.

Factors involving the child

According to New Jersey state law, in making child custody determinations, the court may consider various factors. Aiming to serve the child’s best interests, the court may take into account your child’s age and needs. For example, a 6-month-old infant that gets breastfed may require more time with his or her mother than an adolescent or teenage child. Additionally, the court may take into consideration the quality and continuation of your child’s education, the safety of your child from physical abuse, and your child’s preferences in cases when he or she has reached sufficient age and has the capacity to make a reasonable decision.

Factors involving the parents

Several factors considered by the court when determining child custody involve you and your child’s other parent. The court may look at your fitness, including your mental and physical health, and whether you have a history of domestic violence. Further, the court may consider your employment responsibilities, as well as whether you both have the ability to communicate, cooperate and agree on issues relating to your child. The proximity of your and your ex’s homes may also factor into the court’s custody decision.

Ultimately, the court places decisions regarding custody in the hands of parents. Should the parents struggle to come to an arrangement, however, the court may step in and make custody- and visitation-related decisions.

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