How is child custody determined in New Jersey?

When parents get divorced in New Jersey, they have to go through the emotional process of determining which parent has primary custody over the children. This can be the most difficult part of a divorce because one or both parent will have to go from spending every day with their child to spending significantly less time together. If the parents are not able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, this can be devastating. When the parents cannot agree and custody becomes a contested matter, it is also very difficult for the children to cope with. The Court will take a number of factors into consideration when determining an appropriate custody arrangement. Some of these factors include the following:

  • Each parent’s ability to cooperate;
  • Each parent’s acceptance of custody;
  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse;
  • The bond between the child and each parent;
  • The specific needs of the child;
  • The age and health of the child;
  • Each parent’s ability to act as a guardian;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home life for the child;
  • Each parent’s financial situation; and
  • If the child is old enough and can make mature decisions, their opinion.

Of course, deciding custody is very difficult. When custody matters in New Jersey are contested, the Court may bring in mental health experts to evaluate each factor and provide a detailed recommendation. Such experts may make different recommendations based upon what they think is best for the child regarding both physical and legal custody. It is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you are facing any matters related to divorce and family law, especially if child custody is likely to become a contentious issue.