New Jersey Child Custody FAQs

By Rosanne DeTorres
August 02, 2013
NJ FAQs/Child Custody

Are there guidelines for child custody in New Jersey?

Most parents realize that it is best for them to decide on custody, support and visitation without the help of the court. Leaving these issues up to the court creates an element of surprise that most individuals can live without. New Jersey does have Child Custody Guidelines which will come into play if the parents are incapable of being rational with one another in making these ever so important decisions.

How much influence does my child have in custody declaration?

Much of this depends upon the child's age. The older the child, the more influence he or she will be able to exert on the court. Although the court does have the final say, the testimony of a child oftentimes places significant weight on the judicial scales.

What if the wife is pregnant at the time of separation and divorce?

The unborn child is to be treated no differently than any living child.

Does a homosexual parent have equal rights to custody?

The homosexual parent should have equal rights as any other parent, with the decision contingent upon the ultimate concern for the best interest and general welfare of the child. If under this criteria the homosexual parent measures best, then proper custody should be awarded.

Can custody rights change in New Jersey?

Yes, absolutely. It is recommended that periodic evaluations of the parenting plan be made. This is important because so many circumstances can change over a short period following the divorce, such as change in employment, residence, or marital status.

Who normally gets physical custody?

In majority of the cases, the mother is granted physical custody. However, in some instances, the mother works nights or is heavily involved in educational pursuits. In cases of this sort, physical custody is often granted to the father. Other times, when parents desire to love near to one another, it is not uncommon for them to share physical custody.

Does there need to be a custody agreement?

It is required by law, for at least one parent to always be legally responsible for the child. Any change in the status of custody rights must also always be made in concert with the judicial system.

Can a non-parent obtain custody of my child?

It is possible for a non-parent to obtain custody in very limited situations. In those cases, the non-parent has a significant and meaningful relationship with the child, and it is in the child's best interest to be in the non-parent's custody.

How is child custody jurisdiction established?

Recent laws have been passed concerning child-napping. If one parent disagrees with the court's decision, he or she might attempt to take the child to another state and thus (each state has different guidelines) re-open the issue of custodial rights. There are several elements which determine the proper state in which child custody is determined: length of time the child has resided in the state, any previous court proceedings concerning child custody, the residency of each parent, and so on.

When is the right time to tell my child about the divorce?

Obviously, there could never be the perfect time or place. The ultimate concern should be to maintain complete honesty and integrity when discussing the situation with the child. Children are often much smarter than their youth might lead one to believe. The child should never be misled about the parent's relationship. If the marriage is over, they have a right to be told.

Can my child be used as a witness in court?

In New Jersey, depending on the age of the child, the child's wishes are given consideration but are not controlling.

Before the custodial arrangements are set, should I ask my child with whom he/she would want to live?

This would put the child in a horrible situation. The worst thing a child must do is make a statement choosing the parent he or she would want to live with. In a lot of cases it must eventually be done, but if the child has not come forward, then a parent should probably not ask.

How long does the child custody evaluation process take?

Any evaluation should be initiated at least six weeks prior to the court date. This process should never be hastened or undergone without full intentions of completion. A full evaluation takes about four weeks, assuming relative distance proximity between both the parents and the evaluator.

What is the typical judicial attitude towards custody?

Not, surprisingly, it is women who are most in favor. Perhaps this is due to the recognition of the value of maternal instinct. For whatever reason, it has been the precedence set in the past and traditionally many judges find it difficult to change their ways. However, with the changing of socio-economic structure of contemporary society, fathers are beginning to have a more significant parenting role.

What are parent's attitudes towards custody?

Again, not surprisingly, women are usually more wanting of custody than fathers, but the percentage of the fathers petitioning for custody is growing. This is very commonplace in a dual-income household.

After divorce, how do the majority of parents react to custody arrangements?

Typically, the parents abide by the court-ordered arrangements for custody. However, it is not uncommon for the terms to change shortly thereafter the divorce due to change in lifestyles (i.e., re-marrying, financial problems).


Rosanne DeTorres, co-founder of DeTorres & DeGeorge, LLC, is NJ Supreme Court certified as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. Choosing a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney assures you the most effective representation. Ms. DeTorres concentrates her family law practice on divorce, custody, child support and alimony.

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August 02, 2013
Categories:  Child Custody|FAQs

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