In New Jersey, the law states that it is in the child’s best interest to have routine contact with both parents.
This may change if there is violence, substance abuse or another safety risk. In light of New Jersey Legislative Statute 9:2-4 know the difference between legal and physical custody.
1. Legal custody
Legal custody refers to decision-making power about the child’s education, health and welfare. A court is likely to award joint legal custody when both parents are on speaking terms, and when neither party is violent against the other.
2. Physical custody
Physical custody answers the question of where the child lives and with whom. When parents share physical custody, both parents see the child, though it may not be for an equal amount of time.
3. Determining factors
Custody decisions will support the child’s best interests and seek to maintain the child’s routine contact with both parents. However, safety and environmental factors may cause the court to order limits on one parent. If a parent deals with substance abuse, shows signs endangering themselves or others or has past examples of having attempted to keep the child from the other party, the court may limit that person’s contact to fewer days or even a small number of supervised hours per month. A court may also consider the quality of the child’s education, stability of the home and both parents’ geographical locations.
If the child is old enough to have reasoning capacity enough to make an informed decision, a court may seek the child’s preference. Most often, a court does not want to put children in the middle of their parents’ disputes, and will make a decision based on objective considerations.