New Jersey law preserves a child’s right to spend time with both parents after the marital relationship ends. To ease the transition, the state encourages parents to agree on a parenting plan that details a physical custody schedule.

Explore the guidelines for child custody in New Jersey and protect your right to significant parenting time with your child.

Types of custody

New Jersey law recognizes both joint custody and sole custody. With sole custody, the child lives with one parent most of the time, and that parent has the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing. When parents share joint custody, they also share the ability to make these decisions, and the child divides time between both parents’ residences. In general, New Jersey orders sole custody only when one parent has a history of violence or otherwise puts the child at risk for harm.

The custody determination process

The state gives parents the opportunity to make their own decisions about custody if they are able to reach a fair agreement outside of court. When parents cannot agree, they can ask the judge in their jurisdiction for a custody determination. The court decides based on factors that support the child’s best interest, well-being and safety, including but not limited to:

  • Each parent’s proposed custody plan
  • The child’s wishes, if he or she has the maturity to express an opinion
  • Each parent’s level of cooperation and communication with the other parent
  • The number and ages of children in the family
  • How involved each parent has historically been in the child’s care
  • Whether either parent has a history of neglect, violence or domestic abuse
  • The child’s existing relationship with and connections to extended family, school and community
  • How close the parents live to one another
  • The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs and provide a safe, secure home environment
  • The work responsibilities of each parent
  • Whether the child has any special educational or health needs

The judge may also order parents and their attorneys to work with a professional mediator. This individual helps parties negotiate a reasonable, fair custody arrangement.