At Bozanian McGregor LLC, we are acutely aware of how complicated and emotionally charged family law issues can be, especially when they involve parents and children.Our attorneys are adept at leveraging our in-depth knowledge of the law and our well-honed legal skills to assist clients throughout New Jersey in matters of physical and legal child custody. 

Because we never forget that both types of child custody directly affect the most vulnerable members of the family, our approach to such issues is not only practical and effective but personalized and compassionate. 

Defining Physical and Legal Custody

Physical custody pertains to the child’s living arrangements. It designates the parent with whom the child will reside on a day-to-day basis. Physical custody can be sole, where the child lives with one parent full-time, or joint, where the child splits time between both parents. When physical custody is awarded to only one parent, the other parent is awarded generous amounts of parenting time. The primary goal of physical custody arrangements is to maintain stability and continuity in the child’s life.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make significant decisions regarding the child’s upbringing in terms of education, health care, religious training, and general welfare. Like physical custody, legal custody can be sole or joint. Sole legal custody grants one parent exclusive decision-making power, while joint legal custody necessitates collaboration between parents in the decision-making process. In the majority of cases, legal custody is joint.

Factors the Court Considers When Assigning Child Custody

New Jersey courts prioritize the child’s best interests in custody decisions, considering a great number of factors, which may include:

  • Who has been the child’s primary caregiver (if either parent has)
  • The fitness of each parent
  • Whether there has been any history of domestic violence in the home
  • The age and number of each parent’s children 
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable, loving home
  • The parents’ employment schedule and responsibilities 
  • The mental and physical needs of the child and whether the child has any special needs
  • The emotional ties the child has with parents, siblings and other household members
  • The extent and quality of time each parent has spent with the child on a regular basis
  • The preference of the child if they are old enough to have an opinion
  • Each parent’s ability to provide connections with extended family members
  • Each parent’s ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate with the other parent in matters relating to the child

In divisive cases, the court will also consider the recommendations made by a mental health professional after an objective custody evaluation. In any event, the courts, wherever possible, strive to establish custody arrangements that foster strong, healthy relationships between the child and each parent.

Reasons a Parent May Be Given Legal But Not Physical Custody

A parent may be awarded legal custody without physical custody in situations where joint physical custody is impractical, yet it’s deemed beneficial for both parents to be involved in major decisions. 

For instance, if one parent relocates for work at a distance from the child’s school and support network or if one parent’s work schedule makes it impossible for them to provide the child with adequate care and supervision, it may be necessary for the child to live with the other parent. These circumstances, however, do not interfere with the parent’s right to have a role in making decisions about the child’s schooling, religious instruction, or medical care. 

Reasons a Parent May Not Have Legal Custody

There are circumstances where a court may decide a parent should not have legal custody, usually because the parent’s judgment is impaired, decision-making ability is poor, or behavior is reprehensible. This may occur if the parent has a history of:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Addiction to Alcohol or Drugs
  • Sexual Abuse

In these instances, the court may determine that it is in the child’s best interest to restrict one parent’s contact with the child to supervised visits or to remove that parent’s custody rights entirely.

Ways in Which Our Attorneys Can Assist You With Child Custody Issues

At Bozanian McGregor LLC, our experienced family law attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of the ins and outs of child custody and are dedicated to advocating for the best interests of your children and your parental rights. Our services include:

  • Coming up with a customized legal strategy that reflects your unique family dynamics, one designed to bring the most favorable outcome.
  • Negotiating and/or mediating a custody agreement that serves your child’s best interests while respecting your parental rights and preferences.
  • Providing vigorous litigation support if negotiations fail.
  • Handling modifications and enforcement of custody orders to reflect changes in your life and the life of your child or to deal with the other parent’s noncompliance.
  • Guidance on co-parenting and custody designed to help you through the complex, sometimes confusing, often stressful issues of divorce or separation.

Contact Our Capable Child Custody Attorneys Today

Understanding the distinction between physical and legal custody is just the beginning. 

Once you become our client, you will find how reassuring it is to have caring, experienced professionals at your side to answer your questions and support your goals. At Bozanian McGregor, we are committed to helping you navigate the turbulent waters of divorce and child custody with as little anxiety as possible. Contact us now. You don’t have to go it alone.