The Criteria for Establishing Child Custody in New Jersey

Father and daughter easting breakfastIf you are involved in a divorce proceeding and have minor children, one of the difficult issues you will have to address centers on where the children will live, and how to maintain positive relationships with both parents—custody and visitation. As a parent, you want what’s best for your child, but you also want to play a meaningful role in their growth and development.

In New Jersey, the criteria for determining child custody and visitation are straightforward. The courts are charged with putting custody and visitation arrangements in place that are in the “best interests of the minor child.” When identifying what is in the child’s best interests, the courts are required to consider certain factors, including:

  • The history and inclination of the parents to agree, cooperate and communicate on issues involving the children
  • The historical interaction and relationship between the child and each parent, and between the child and siblings, including the extent and quality of any time spent between parent and child before or after the separation
  • The demonstrated willingness of both parents to honor custody and visitation arrangements
  • The safety of the child, as evidence by any history of domestic violence, including spouse or child abus
  • The relative stability of each parent’s home environment
  • Any special needs of the child, including medical, educational or religious needs
  • Any responsibilities (work-related or other) of either parent that may affect ability to be present as a parent
  • The proximity of each parent’s home to school, medical care, church or religious training, or other critical aspects of the child’s life
  • The wishes of the child, if the court determines the child is old enough and has the capacity to make “an intelligent decision.”

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