Shared custody means that the children spend time with both parents, whether that time is evenly split or involves one parent adhering to a visitation schedule while the other has physical custody.
Sometimes, spending time alone with one of the parents is not in the children’s best interests. When that is the case, the court will determine the appropriate custody arrangements.
In New Jersey, the statute is clear about the factors that represent the children’s best interests in a custody case. Examples of these include:
- Age and number of children
- Parental work schedules
- The children’s needs and wishes
- The geographical location of parents
- Parents’ ability to cooperate
- Parents’ mental health
- Educational and religious considerations
The law says that a parent is unfit if they fail to provide their child with proper care, guidance and support. The court will look at many factors before deeming a parent unfit, such as whether the children fear visitation with that parent or if the parent’s substance abuse renders them incapable of providing a safe environment. Still, the court will try to ensure that children have a relationship with both parents, even if the visitation requires supervision.
Termination of rights
In some cases, the court may find that any interaction with one of the parents is not in the children’s best interest. Among the factors that may lead to a termination of parental rights are abandonment and child endangerment. Termination of parental rights makes children available for adoption by a stepparent or other relative.
When one or both primary adults in a child’s life fail to do what is best for their happiness, safety, security and emotional development, the court will step in.