The factors behind child custody decisions in New Jersey

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

In New Jersey, the court’s primary focus when determining custody and other parenting rights is to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. Several factors come into play, and it helps to understand how things work if you are in such a situation.

The law does not explicitly define the best interests of the child. Instead, it provides a set of factors that judges use to assess what these interests may be in each case. Below are some of the aspects that may inform the court’s decision.

The safety and well-being of the child

The child’s physical and emotional safety and well-being take priority in custody proceedings. As such, the court will evaluate each parent’s ability to provide and care for the child. Their parental skills and abilities will also come under scrutiny as the judge seeks to find an arrangement that puts the child first.

The level of cooperation between the parents

Courts appreciate parents who can work together in the child’s best interests. Demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and communicate effectively regarding parenting issues can positively influence custody decisions.

The child’s preferences

If the child is old enough and can express a reasonable preference, the judge may consider their wishes when issuing custody orders. However, these preferences must align with the child’s best interests.

History of domestic violence or substance abuse

A history of domestic violence or substance abuse can significantly impact custody decisions. Courts prioritize the child’s safety and may limit or supervise visitation in such cases, given the potential risk of harm to the child.

While child custody decisions are made with the utmost care and consideration for the child’s well-being, it’s essential to understand the factors involved. It’s equally crucial to approach the process with a cooperative and child-centered mindset. Seeking legal assistance can help you protect your parental rights and champion the best interests of your child.

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