Could I get sole custody of my child in divorce?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

Divorce is sometimes necessary. However, you may be resisting to take this step because you fear that your spouse will harm or turn your child against you if they get custody. In New Jersey, the courts only award sole custody to one parent when it is strictly necessary. Still, you can get it if you can prove to the court that your spouse could physically and mentally harm your child. If the courts don’t find a problem at first, you can change the order in the future if your spouse’s aggressive behavior shows up or worsens.

Custody in New Jersey

The courts consider both parents as equals, so they always think of the option of joint custody when handling a divorce. However, they won’t award joint custody if they believe physical or emotional harm could come to the child from spending time with one parent. The courts will make a decision based on your child’s best interest. To determine the best interests of your child, the courts consider some of the following factors:

  • Your and your spouse’s ability to communicate and cooperate with matters related to the child
  • Your and your spouse’s willingness to share custody of the child
  • The interaction and relationship each of you has with the child
  • The needs of your child
  • Your and your spouse’s mental and physical health

If your spouse has harmful or abusive behaviors, the courts could award you with sole custody of your child. However, their decision will be based on all the different factors mentioned above. It could also be possible for the court to award you sole physical custody of your child and leave your spouse only with legal custody and parenting time rights.

The possibility of modification

If you are unhappy with the court’s decision after the proceedings, you must know that a custody order is not set in stone. You may ask the court to change the order and get sole custody of your child if your ex does anything that harms them or if there is a substantial change in your circumstances. A parent moving to another state, neglecting the child or remarrying may qualify as a significant change in the circumstances.

Your right as a parent

The courts will determine custody based on your child’s best interests. If you can prove your spouse can harm or negatively influence your child, you may have the possibility of getting full sole custody.  You must know that asking for sole custody when it is not necessary can negatively affect your child. However, you know your child the most, and you can fight for what you think is best for them in court.

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