New Jersey parents who are facing divorce might wonder what criteria are used to award custody. In some cases, they may be able to negotiate a custody arrangement between themselves. However, if that is not possible, it may be necessary to turn to litigation. There, in deciding who gets primary physical custody of the child, a judge generally looks at who the child's primary physical caretaker was during the relationship.
Determining who the primary physical caretaker is depends on a number of factors including who was responsible for health care arrangements, bathing and grooming, meal preparation, leisure activities, extracurricular activities and teachers' conferences among other decision-making responsibilities. However, in some cases, parents might share these responsibilities fairly equally. If this is the case, the judge will then consider the best interests of the child.
Considering the child's best interests means taking several factors into account as well such as the child's relationship with various family members, the child's age, and the child's own wishes depending upon that age. The court will also consider whether there has been any abuse in the home or problems with drugs and alcohol, the stability of the home, and the mental and physical health of each parent.
Decisions around child custody, support and visitation can be particularly fraught for parents who are divorcing. Even when parents completely understand the child's need to spend time with both parents, it can be difficult for one parent to accept giving up time with their child. However, according to some studies, children adjust better when parents are able to maintain an amicable relationship, so it may be in the best interests of the child to come to an agreement outside of court if possible. Attorneys may be able to assist parents with those negotiations.