Child custody involves two components: legal and physical custody. Legal custody defines each parent’s ability to make decisions about major issues impacting a child’s life such as religious upbringing, education, and medical treatment. Agreements and orders addressing child custody often address each parent’s ability to access school and medical records.
Physical custody addresses the time sharing involved; i.e., in whose care and under what schedule the child(ren) spend time. One parent can be designated as the parent with primary physical custody, meaning that parent has the child most of the time. Parenting time arrangements can be described as “shared” meaning essentially that each parent has significant time with the child; (there can also be a primary parent in a shared arrangement). Some parties also equally divide time with their children in an arrangement that can be described as either joint or split physical custody.
The arrangements addressing the time spent with the child are often referred to as “parenting time arrangements.” Parenting time arrangements include reoccurring weekly schedules as well as parenting time during holidays, school breaks, summer vacations, and other events. Orders and agreements addressing parenting time arrangements can be very detailed, including pick-up and drop-off times and the transportation obligations of each parent.
Issues regarding custody and parenting time can be reached by agreement or litigated in court. In resolving litigation involving children, the guiding principle for New Jersey family court judges is to determine what relief serves the best interests of the child.
Under New Jersey law, (NJSA 9:2-4) the general factors that a judge must consider in ascertaining a child’s best interest are:
the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
the history of domestic violence, if any;
the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
the needs of the child;
the stability of the home environment offered;
the quality and continuity of the child’s education;
the fitness of the parents, (with respect to this factor: a parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parents’ conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child);
the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
the parents’ employment responsibilities; and
the age and number of the children.
There is extensive law addressing how courts rely on these factors in determining a child’s best interests. Jennifer and Erin have handled a variety of custody matters including those complicated by Domestic violence; substance abuse; involvement of DCCP (formerly know as DYFS); and the relocation of a parent out of New Jersey.
Lazor Rantas, PC exclusively handles family matters including those involving:
Agreements including premarital, cohabitation, post-marital, separation, marital, and custody and parenting time agreements.