Joint and Sole Custody

Family Law Attorneys Advising Monmouth County Residents

In New Jersey, the parents' wishes are less important in a custody battle than their child's best interests. However, each child is unique, and the way your lawyer frames your child's best interests can make a big difference to the outcome of your case, as well as how much child support will have to be paid between parents. Divorcing spouses who are seeking to resolve these matters can consult the Monmouth County child custody lawyers at Goldstein Law Group to represent them during this emotionally challenging process.

The Difference Between Joint and Sole Custody

In New Jersey, there are two main parts of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. The parent with whom a child lives the majority of the time has physical or residential custody. Legal custody involves a parent's authority to make decisions for the child regarding important matters such as education, health, safety, and welfare. Daily decisions are usually the province of whichever parent a child is physically accompanying on a particular day. Both parts of child custody can be either “joint” or “sole.”

If a parent has sole custody, it means that the child lives with that parent most of the time, spending fewer than two overnights per week with the other parent. In some cases, the child may spend some extra vacation time withe the "non-custodial" parent. However, if one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent will usually be permitted "parenting time." New Jersey courts assume that a child will be benefited if the parents are equally or near-equally involved in the responsibilities and rights of parenting. Parenting time for a non-custodial parent may be restricted or supervised if that parent has a history of domestic violence or abuse.

When a child spends two or more overnights per week with each parent, the parents have shared physical custody, and even though one parent is the "parent of primary residence," the other is referred to as the "parent of alternative residence." When parents have shared custody, child support calculations will be different. A highly involved parent of alternative residence will likely pay less child support to the other parent than he or she would in a sole custody situation.

Sometimes the term "joint custody" refers to a type of custody in which parents not only share equal parenting time but also participate equally in major parenting decisions, such as where a child should go to school, the child's religious affiliation, and who the child's physician should be. This type of arrangement can be difficult for divorcing couples because the parents must be able to cooperate closely, and many divorcing couples have parted ways because they are not able to work closely with the other parent.

However, sole legal custody is perhaps the most unusual situation. A judge usually makes this determination only if one parent is unavailable or not fit. For example, sole legal custody might be appropriate when a parent has abused the child or neglected the child in the past, or is addicted to drugs. If one parent accuses the other of being unfit, the court may order a custody evaluation or a family risk assessment.

Discuss a Child Custody Matter with a Monmouth County Lawyer

Parents are encouraged to make their own custody arrangements, but in some cases agreement is not possible, and in those cases, it may be appropriate to go to trial on the issue of custody. The knowledgeable family law lawyers at Goldstein Law Group can protect the interests of people throughout New Jersey who are seeking joint or sole custody. We serve clients in Middlesex and Ocean Counties, as well as in communities such as Freehold and East Brunswick. Contact us at 732-967-6777 or via our online form for a free consultation with a Monmouth County attorney.

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