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Parents who split up have many difficult decisions to make. In the face of high emotions and sometimes negative feelings toward each other, the parents must think rationally and calmly about what is best for the children. It is also important for parents to understand the child custody laws in New Jersey so they know what to expect when they take their matter to court or the negotiating table.

Family law courts in all states begin with the goal of seeking to protect the well-being of the children. This may mean the parents do not always get what they want if it interferes with what is best for the children. For example, one parent may seek full custody of the children. However, if both partners are fit and loving parents, the court may order them to share custody. The court will likely examine many factors in determining the fitness of each parent.

Custody is a broad term that is actually two different concepts. A parent who has legal custody is the one who has the authority to make all the important decisions for the children’s upbringing, such as education, religion, medical care and other items. Physical custody is often called parenting time, and it is the time the parent spends with the children, providing for their daily needs. The court may order shared or individual physical and legal custody of a child.

As difficult as it may be for parents to set aside their personal feelings during a breakup, meeting the best interests of the child is the focus of a child custody case. There is a great deal at stake when the future of one’s children is on the line. New Jersey parents facing a custody battle would do well to approach the process armed with reliable information and the strong advocacy of an experienced attorney.