It is not uncommon for child custody cases in New Jersey to be contentious affairs. However, there are several universal factors that generally determine the outcome whether it is decided by a judge or by the parents themselves. Ultimately, any decision that is made is supposed to be in the best interest of the child. This is true whether the parents are given joint custody or if one person is named the custodial parent.
When creating a child custody order, it must be shown that a parent can provide a living environment that is free from abuse. Therefore, parents may need to show that they have a stable income and they don't engage in activities that could be physically or emotionally abusive. If a child has a sibling, both may live with the same parent to provide stability.
In certain cases, an advocate appointed by the court will observe the children around their parents. The advocate will be looking to see if the parent and child interact in a positive manner. They will also be looking to see if the parent maintains a safe home for the child. Any information provided by this person can be used as part of a child custody order.
Individuals who are seeking more parenting time or other parental rights should consider consulting with an attorney. This may make it possible to learn more about what a judge may look for when opting to grant those additional rights. For instance, a parents could give up alcohol or start participating more in the child's life. An attorney may be able to help document these or other changes in an effort to help parents have a relationship with their children.