Happy african american dad embracing daughter cuddling at home, smiling black father hugging cute little kid girl bonding enjoy time together, daddy child reunion, fatherhood, child custody concept
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

In New Jersey, navigating the complex considerations involved in child custody involves critically examining two predominant arrangements: joint and sole custody. This decision-making process necessitates a thorough understanding of the legal framework, prioritizing the child’s best interests, and evaluating the capacity of each parent to provide a stable, nurturing environment.

Joint custody (or shared custody) encourages both parents to play an active role in their child’s life, fostering a cooperative parenting relationship. In contrast, sole custody may be preferred when one parent is deemed significantly better suited to meet the child’s needs, often due to concerns about the other parent’s ability or environment.

The distinction between these types of custody revolves around how much time the child spends with each parent and how each parent makes decisions affecting the child.

Elements of Joint Custody (Shared Custody)

Joint custody involves two components: joint legal and physical custody.

  • Joint Legal Custody allows parents to make crucial decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious training. Joint legal custody is the most common form of joint custody in New Jersey and does not necessarily mean the child’s time is divided equally between the two parents.
  • Joint Physical Custody involves a more equal or significant division of time with the child between both parents. This arrangement requires a high level of cooperation between the parents to work effectively, as it often involves coordinating schedules, living arrangements, and daily childcare responsibilities.

Elements Of Sole Custody

Sole custody also consists of two types: sole legal custody and sole physical custody.

  • Sole Legal Custody means only one parent can make significant decisions about the child’s life. This arrangement is less common, and typically, the Court determines this is best when one parent is deemed unfit or incapable of making responsible decisions for the child.
  • Sole Physical Custody means the child lives with one parent most of the time, although the non-custodial parent may have visitation rights. The custodial parent is primarily responsible for the child’s day-to-day care.

Custody Decisions Affecting Your Family

The court’s primary concern in determining custody is the child’s welfare and best interests. There are several factors listed below which will influence this decision:

When determining custody in New Jersey, the courts focus on what is in the child’s best interests. The factors considered are comprehensive and designed to assess the child’s safety, happiness, physical, mental, and emotional health. Specific elements that New Jersey courts look at when determining custody include, but are not limited to:

  1. The parents’ ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters relating to the child: The courts consider how well the parents can work together to benefit their child.
  2. The parents’ willingness to accept custody: This includes not only if a parent wants custody but also if they are willing to take the responsibilities that come with it.
  3. The child’s interaction and relationship with its parents and siblings. 
  4. The history of domestic violence, if any.
  5. The child’s safety and the protection of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.
  6. The child’s preference when of sufficient age and capacity to reason to form an intelligent decision.
  7. The child’s educational, physical, and emotional needs.
  8. The stability of the home environment offered.
  9. The quality and continuity of the child’s education.
  10. The fitness of the parents, which includes the parents’ physical and mental health and their ability to meet the child’s needs
  11. The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes.
  12. The extent and quality of the time spent with the child before or after the separation.
  13. The parents’ employment responsibilities include how each parent’s work obligations might affect their ability to care for the child.
  14. The age and number of children.

The above factors are not exhaustive, and the courts have the discretion to consider any other factors deemed relevant to the case’s specific circumstances.

Determination As To Whether Joint Or Sole Custody Is Better 

Determining whether shared or sole custody is better depends on the specific circumstances of each case. Shared custody is often beneficial because it allows the child to maintain a strong relationship with both parents. However, it requires significant cooperation and communication between the parents, which is only possible in some cases.

Sole custody might be more advantageous in situations where one parent is unfit, there is a significant level of conflict between the parents, or one parent has historically been the child’s primary caregiver. Ultimately, the decision is based on the child’s best interests, considering all the above mentioned factors. Parents must also evaluate their schedules, living arrangements, and ability to cooperate in parenting. Shared custody might be more feasible if parents live close to each other and communicate effectively.

Planning for the Long-Term: Factors to Consider in Child Custody Arrangements

Parents should consider their current situation and how the custody arrangement will work in the long term. Both parents must consider how each arrangement might need to be adjusted as the child grows and circumstances change.

Consulting with family law attorneys can give parents a better understanding of their options and implications. Attorneys can offer insights into how the New Jersey family courts view different custody arrangements. Mediation or family counseling can help parents work through disagreements and come to a consensus on what is best for their child. A neutral third party can also facilitate the necessary discussions.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

When deciding between joint and shared custody, parents must focus on what will best support their child’s development and well-being while considering the practicalities of implementing the custody arrangement. Bozanian McGregor has experienced family law attorneys who can help you navigate the complexities of deciding whether you should have sole or joint custody with your ex-spouse. 

Contact our firm for an initial consultation so we can help you develop a parenting plan that suits everyone’s needs.

About the Author
Elton’s passion has always been family, guardianship, and estate practice, and the complexities that accompany each unique, family-oriented matter.