New Jersey requires that all child custody and parenting time decisions be made with the interests of the children a top priority. Most likely, no one knows what's best for a child's physical, mental, and emotional well-being better than their parents. This is why a divorcing couple must put aside their differences and work together to create child custody and visitation agreements that empower their children to thrive.
If you and your spouse can't—or won't—come to an agreement on weighty child custody issues, the court will step in to make these hugely vital determinations for you. And its assessment of what's in your child's best interests may be different than your own.
Are you facing child custody and parenting time issues in your divorce? Here's what you need to know about New Jersey's “best interests of the child” standard, and how a savvy divorce and family law attorney can help you craft agreements that both accomplish your goals and meet the court's criteria.
Children's Rights in a New Jersey Divorce
New Jersey child custody and parenting time laws are structured with children's needs and interests in mind. The court determined that children have valued rights throughout the divorce process. They include:
- Emotional stability
- Consistent custody schedules
- A relationship with both parents
- Financial support from both parents
A child's right to a relationship with both parents plays a particularly big role in shaping child custody and visitation decisions in New Jersey. Because the state believes that it's in the public interest to encourage both parents to share in child-rearing rights and responsibilities, it often attempts to divide physical custody and parenting time as equitably as possible.
Additionally, interfering with your child's right to maintain a consistent and positive relationship with the other parent may jeopardize your own custody and parenting time. If the court determines that you've engaged in “parental alienation,” it may take corrective action, such as temporarily or permanently modifying the parenting plan, or ordering you to attend counseling or parenting classes to better understand how to help minimize the negative effects of divorce on your child.
How the Court Determines Best Interests
When making child custody and parenting time determinations, the court considers a wide variety of factors related to the child's physical health and safety and emotional needs, as well as each parent's co-parenting and communication skills. These factors can include:
- The child's relationship with their parents and siblings
- The child's safety, and the safety of each parent from physical abuse by the other
- Each parent's willingness to accept custody, as well as any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse
- Any history of domestic violence
- The child's needs
- The parents' fitness
- The child's preferences, provided they're of sufficient age and maturity
- The stability of each home environment
- The geographical proximity of the parents' homes
- The quality and continuity of the child's education
- The child's relationship with each parent before or during the separation
- Each parent's employment responsibilities
- The number and ages of other children in each home
If the court determines that contact with a parent is harmful to a child, it may restrict that parent's visitation. This can occur in situations involving a history of domestic violence, substance abuse issues, or past negligence or abuse when caring for the child.
Legal Expertise for Your Child Custody Case
When you're a parent, nothing is more important than your child's well-being. At Carl Taylor Law, our caring and accomplished divorce and family law attorneys are dedicated to helping you resolve child custody and parenting time issues in your child's best interests. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a private consultation with an experienced member of our legal team.