Types of child custody in New Jersey

If you are ending your marriage and have children, you likely have concerns about how custody works in New Jersey. The state distinguishes between physical custody and legal custody. 

Learn more about what these terms mean and how New Jersey determines a fair custody arrangement in divorce. 

Custody definitions

Legal custody describes the right to make decisions on behalf of the child. Parents who have legal custody can contribute to choices about where the child attends school, the health care he or she receives, and other important aspects of growth and development. You can share legal custody with your child’s other parent or ask the court for sole legal custody. 

The parent who has physical custody determines the child’s primary residence. As with legal custody, New Jersey can award either sole or joint physical custody. 

Factors in custody decisions

If you and the other parent agree on a fair custody arrangement, you can present this parenting plan to the court during your divorce proceedings. The judge will approve the plan and it becomes legally binding. 

When you and your former spouse disagree on custody, you can ask the court to decide. New Jersey law requires the judge to determine custody based on the child’s best interests. Factors he or she may consider include a history of domestic violence, the employment status of both parents, the child’s existing relationship with both parents as well as siblings and the child’s preferences if he or she is at least 12 years old. 

While New Jersey presumes it is best for the child to have a relationship with both parents, the court may award sole custody if that relationship puts the child’s health or safety at risk.