When you have a child with someone in New Jersey and your marriage or romantic relationship ends, you must take certain steps if you wish to establish a formal custody arrangement. If you and your former partner were not in a marriage at the time of your child’s birth, you need to establish paternity before either seeking child support from the father or seeking custody or parenting time, depending on your situation.
Per the New Jersey Courts, the state may award, you, your ex or both of you one or more types of legal or residential custody.
Understanding joint versus sole legal custody
If you and your ex share joint legal custody, then you share pretty much everything as far as your child goes. In this scenario, you must share important information about your child with one another. You also need to learn to co-parent effectively together while living in different homes. In the event that one of you gets sole legal custody, this gives the party who does so exclusive decision-making responsibility over the child at the center of the custody case.
Primary versus shared residential custody
“Primary residential custody” means the child at the center of the case spends the majority, or at least 51%, of his overnights in the home of one parent, as opposed to the other. In the event that you and your ex wind up sharing residential custody, then this suggests that your child spends an equal amount of time living in the homes of each parent.
Many different factors help determine what type of custody arrangement the court decides is appropriate for your child. Some of these factors include how much time each parent devoted to parenting the child, thus far, and the strength of the relationships that currently exist between each parent and the child.