Ending a relationship is never easy, but matters can feel even more complicated when children are involved.
If you are going through a divorce or separation in New Jersey and have questions about how custody of and support for your children will be handled, you are not alone.
New Jersey Child Custody Laws Overview
Child custody matters in New Jersey can be complex, both legally and emotionally. As you begin the process, here are a few things for you to keep in mind.
New Jersey Child Custody, Generally
In New Jersey, there are two types of custody:
- Legal custody. This refers to decision-making authority regarding the child’s health, education, well-being, and general upbringing.
- Physical custody. This refers to where the child will reside.
If a child’s parents cannot reach a mutually agreeable custody arrangement, the courts will have to step in and make a determination regarding legal and physical custody of the child.
With respect to both legal custody and physical custody, both parents may be awarded joint custody, or one parent could be granted sole custody of the child.
Notably, the public policy of the state is to promote frequent and continuing contact between a child and both of their parents and encourage them to share equally in the rights and responsibilities of raising their child even after their divorce or separation.
Another key aspect of child custody matters in New Jersey is visitation. Visitation, also referred to as parenting time, refers to a noncustodial parent’s right to spend time with their child, even if the child resides primarily with their other parent.
Thus, even if your ex has sole or primary custody of your child, you may nevertheless be entitled to certain visitation rights.
New Jersey Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents
In New Jersey, child custody laws generally apply similarly to both married and unmarried parents. However, there are some differences and nuances in how such matters may be handled.
For example, when a child is born to a married couple, both parents are presumed to be the child’s biological parents. However, unmarried fathers do not benefit from this same presumption. Thus, if you are unmarried, you may need to establish paternity as you pursue custody of your child.
Child Support in New Jersey––New Jersey Child Support Guidelines
In addition to child custody, when separating from your partner or spouse, you may also need to address child support. This allows the parties to ensure that the child is adequately taken care of and that both parents continue to contribute toward the upbringing of their child even after their separation.
In determining the amount of child support in any given case, New Jersey courts will typically adhere to what is referred to as the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines take into account factors such as the:
- Number of children,
- Income of both parents,
- Child’s needs and standard of living prior to the parents’ separation, and
- Parents’ abilities to financially provide for the child’s needs.
It’s important to remember that the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are just that––a guideline. Thus, they will provide a basic framework for calculating the amount of child support in any given case. However, the courts have discretion to deviate from these guidelines in certain scenarios.
Primary Consideration: The Best Interest of the Child
In all things related to child custody or support in New Jersey, there is one primary consideration that will outweigh all others, and that is the best interest of the child.
This means that the court’s overarching goal in all child-related legal matters will be promoting the child’s best interests in making any determinations.
Factors that are typically considered in determining what is in the child’s best interest include the:
- Child’s relationship with each parent;
- Ability and willingness of the parents to cooperate and communicate with each other;
- Financial stability of each parent and their ability to provide a safe and stable environment for the child; and
- Child’s preferences, where appropriate based on their age and maturity level.
There are many other factors that may exist and will be considered depending on the precise circumstances. An experienced family law attorney can help you evaluate your case and prove to the court that the resolution you are seeking is, in fact, in the best interest of your child.
Weiner Law Group: Your Trusted Child Support and Custody Lawyers
When it comes to something as important as your children, it is crucial that you entrust your case to a team with the knowledge and expertise necessary to help you effectively fight for your rights. At Weiner Law Group, we hope we can be just that team for you.
Our team of New Jersey family law attorneys has decades of experience representing clients as they fight for their families and work to move forward in their lives with confidence and success.
We pride ourselves on creating strong relationships with our clients so that we can develop intelligent and individually tailored strategies and provide exceptional service as a result.
Contact us today to discuss your case and see how we can help you fight for your rights today.
How Much Is Child Support in New Jersey?
The amount of child support in any given case will depend on a variety of factors, such as the income of the parents, the number of children, and the needs of the child. To get a better idea of the amount of child support that may be awarded in your case, consult the New Jersey child support guidelines and speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys today.
Can Custody and Support Orders Be Modified?
Yes. Child custody and support orders in New Jersey can be modified in certain situations. Typically, however, there must be a substantial change in circumstances justifying the modification, such as a significant change in a parent’s employment status or income.
Do I Need a New Jersey Family Law Attorney for My Case?
Technically, no. You are not required by law to hire legal counsel to represent you in a child custody or support case in New Jersey. Nevertheless, an experienced New Jersey family law attorney can provide a number of benefits to your case and is certainly worth considering.