Parents in New Jersey may feel nervous before a child custody hearing. Those feelings are common and completely normal. It’s understandable that parents wants the best for their children, and in most cases, parents want as much time with their children as possible after a separation or divorce. Under most circumstances, custody is divided between both parents in a way that both parents get quality time with their kids. Before heading into a custody hearing, it’s helpful for parents to understand what to expect.
Joint or single-parent custody
In many situations, the court will award joint legal custody, which means the parents will share decision-making authority for significant decisions about education, religious upbringing, health care and even extracurricular activities. In extenuating circumstances, single-parent custody may be awarded. Physical custody has to do with the amount of time each parent will have the children; this too can be roughly equal parenting time, or one parent could end up with primary physical custody. Flexibility can be important when deciding what is the best schedule for the children, although this isn’t always what’s most convenient for the parents.
Things to consider
The courts prefer for parents to work together to come to an agreement on co-parenting matters like custody and child support. But they will step in when parents can’t agree. Family court judges will consider things like the child’s best interests, the fitness of both parents, home environment, stability and family history when determining the parenting time schedule. Parents should be prepared to answer tough questions during a custody hearing.
The number one consideration of a judge when deciding custody arrangements is the best interest of the child. Parents may be able to work together to find a fair middle ground when it comes to co-parenting. But if they can’t agree, the courts will determine the custody arrangement. New Jersey parents who are going through a divorce or separation can benefit from getting sound legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.