New Jersey State Bar Association
Bergen County Bar Association

Child Custody and Visitation

Protecting Your Custody & Visitation Rights

Child Custody and Visitation Resolving disputes involving child custody and visitation is often the most difficult and stressful part of a divorce. Too often, children are turned into “cannon fodder” in the bitter war between their parents.

It’s almost always best if the parents can come to an amicable agreement on issues of child custody and visitation.No judge can understand your family and your situation as well as you do, and a judge may not have the time or inclination to come up with creative solutions that meet your family’s needs.

We can explain your child custody and visitation rights under New Jersey law, and help you negotiate with your former (or soon-to-be-former) spouse or domestic partner. However, if you’re unable to come to an agreement we will go to court to vigorously protect your rights.

Under New Jersey law, child custody has two components:“physical” and “legal.”Both forms of custody can be “joint” or “sole.”

A parent has sole physical custody (also called sole residential custody) when a child lives with that parent most of the time.A parent with sole physical custody is often called the child’s “primary caretaker.”If the other parent has visitation rights, that other parent is called the child’s “secondary caretaker.”

Parents have joint physical custody when the child splits his or her time between the two households.This division of time does not have to be exactly 50/50.Parents can alternate days, weeks, or months or come up with any schedule that makes sense for the parents and child.

A parent who does not have sole or joint physical custody of a child may have the right to visitation, which is also called parenting time.

Parents have joint legal custody when both parents have the right to make important decisions concerning the child.Such decisions may involve matters such as where the child goes to school, what religion(s) the child will be raised in, and what after-school activities the child will participate in.Joint legal custody is very common in New Jersey, including in cases where one parent has sole physical custody.

A parent with sole legal custody can make major decisions concerning the child with consulting the other parent or getting the other parent to agree.Sole legal custody is most often ordered by a court if the other parent is unavailable or unfit as a parent.A parent can be considered “unfit” if he or she has a history of child abuse or neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or serious and uncontrolled mental health issues.Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for one parent to accuse the other parent of being “unfit,” whether or not there is a factual basis for such an accusation.

In determining both physical and legal custody of a child, as well as visitation rights, a New Jersey court’s main consideration will always be “the best interest of the child.”Some of the factors a court will consider in making its determination are:

  • The physical, emotional, and moral environment in each parent’s household
  • The safety of the child
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • The child’s age
  • The child’s preferences
  • Each parent’s behavior (including any previous abuse)

We invite you to contact our Hackensack office for a free initial consultation with one of our experienced New Jersey family lawyers.

Call us today at  (201) 345-5907 or send us an e-mail and let us help you with your New Jersey child custody and visitation issue.

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