No matter what else is going on in life, parents typically prioritize their children’s well-being above all else. Now that you are going through a divorce, you might be worried about how you can prioritize your child throughout this process. One approach is to make sure that you understand how child custody works in New Jersey.
Once you have a better understanding of child custody, you should be able to make well-informed decisions that uphold your child’s best interests. For example, it is important to understand that there is a difference between physical and legal custody. There are many different factors that may influence the final custody arrangement too, and even grandparents can request visitation.
Physical vs. legal custody
Physical and legal custody are the two primary aspects of child custody in the state of New Jersey. Physical custody refers to where your child will actually spend his or her time. Legal custody refers to how parents will manage the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of your child.
The court will take many different factors into account in regard to both physical and legal custody. For example, a judge might look at your ability to communicate, cooperate and agree with your ex. Your fitness as a parent may also come under scrutiny during this period of time.
Joint vs. sole custody
In general, family law courts assume that children thrive when they have equal access to both parents with joint custody. With this type of arrangement, your child would alternate living with you and your ex. You would both work together to make important decisions regarding:
- Health care
- Other legal matters
With sole custody, a child lives with just one parent. If you were the custodial parent, your child would live with you and perhaps have visitation time with his or her other parent. How parents share decision-making — or legal custody — can vary when one parent has primary physical custody.
Depending on your situation, you might expect your child’s grandparent to request visitation rights. While it can be uncomfortable for someone who is not your child’s parent to seek access to him or her, it is perfectly legal to do so. A judge might approve this request if it is in the child’s best interests, even if you or your ex object.
Divorce is just as much an emotional process as it is a legal one. Working hard to prioritize child custody is an excellent way to help minimize the emotional impact on your child. However, it is important to not let other important matters — such as property division and spousal support — fall to the side.