When it comes to divorce, deciding on child custody is often the biggest issue. Parents can make their own custody and visitation agreement as long as the court approves it.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the courts will decide. A judge takes numerous factors into account before making a decision.
According to the New Jersey Courts, there are two types of custody: Legal and residential. Legal refers to major decisions made for the child, and there are sole and joint options. Residential custody refers to whom the child lives with. Shared residential means the child lives with each parent 50% of the time, while primary residential means one parent has the child at least 51% of the time.
The courts take into consideration the rights of both parents when making custody decisions. FindLaw discusses many of the factors a judge considers when deciding if sole or joint custody is better for the child.
The age of the child is one consideration, as children’s needs change with age. Other considerations include:
- The ability of each parent to provide for the child and keep him or her safe
- Employment responsibilities and work schedules of each parent
- The ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate about things related to the child
- Each parent’s relationship with the child
- The quality and amount of time spent with the child prior to the divorce
- The proximity of the parents’ residences
The presence of domestic violence or physical abuse are other considerations. The state also takes into consideration the child’s wishes if the child is mature enough to understand the situation.