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How do New Jersey courts decide on the custody of a child?

Child custody laws generally instruct the courts on visitation rules, whether parents can seek joint custody and how to order custody. The courts must consider several factors to determine the custody of a child. However, parents may also create parenting plans for the courts to accept or request modifications.

The primary consideration of the courts when determining the matter of child custody is the best interests of the child. These concerns may include the preference of a child who is at least age 12, the physical health of the parents and the child's interaction with the parents and any siblings. Other factors are the ability of the parents to communicate, agree and cooperate with each other on matters of the child; the employment responsibilities of each parent and whether the prospective family home will provide a stable environment for the child.

While the courts have the final say on the custody of a child, the parents may create and agree to a parenting plan. The parents do not have to do this alone. They could participate in family court mediation to get help from a mediator in resolving the matters that they are having trouble deciding. However, the courts could also refer parents to a mediation program if they determine that the custody issues may be resolved with the help of a third party.

Although some parents can get along well enough to create a parenting plan amicably, other parents may not be able to resolve their differences. No matter the circumstances of child custody cases, it may be beneficial to consult attorneys about how parents could approach the matter. The attorneys may be able to advise the parents on any other outstanding issues.

Source: Findlaw, "Child Custody", January 06, 2015

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