When parents separate or divorce, it is essential to maintain consistency in terms of how their children are raised. Rather than putting their own needs first, parents should make choices that promote the children’s best interests.

Divorce is often contentious, though, and staying objective may not be easy for some parents. It is important to understand the various kinds of child custody to help with decision-making.

The Main Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody

Physical custody is when one or both parents are awarded the right to have their child live with them. In most cases, the child will have a primary residence and spend more time living there, although this may vary.

Legal custody is viewed separately from physical custody. It concerns the responsibility for making decisions about the child’s important needs, like medical treatment, education, religious school, and the like.

Physical and legal custody can both be held by one or both parents.

Sole and Joint Custody

In some cases, sole physical custody is only given to one parent, with the non-custodial parent given appropriate time with the child. If the non-custodial parent is found to be unfit for any reason, this could affect visitation.

Joint physical custody is when the child splits their time residing with both parents. This can be done 50/50, or the child can live with one parent for most of the time. Some families may choose to have the child reside with one parent during the school year and the other in the summer. There are different ways to share physical custody, depending on what works best for the child and parents.

Choosing sole physical or legal custody could lead to problems later, especially if the custodial parent decides to relocate somewhere far away. Joint custody is more likely to allow the child frequent contact with both parents, and allows equal input in the decision-making.

However, if the parents do not have a friendly relationship, making decisions about vacations, visitations, and other activities can cause ongoing disputes, which may have a negative impact on the children.

Child Custody in New Jersey

When it comes to awarding child custody, the New Jersey court system puts the children’s physical and emotional needs first. Some things they consider include the stability of the living situation, the parents’ incomes, what children over age twelve prefer, and how well the child gets along with the parents and siblings. They also look at how much time the parent can spend with the child, parental resources, and the school district.

If the parents do not communicate well regarding the children’s needs, or if there is any history of domestic violence, this could lead to one parent getting sole custody. In these cases, and others where risk factors may be present, a non-custodial parent may get supervised visitations.

If one parent does plan to move out of state with the child, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) may come into play. This legislation is designed to help parents avoid interstate child custody issues.

The decision to put your children’s needs first is easy, but the means for getting there can be challenging. An experienced attorney can help you with all matters pertaining to divorce and child custody. For a free consultation, call us at 856-751-5505 or fill out an online form. Our offices are in Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey, and we represent families in Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, and throughout South Jersey.