Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody
Here are some of the top questions that our clients have about child custody:
What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
Physical custody refers to the right of the parent to exercise physical control over a child, including determining where the child may go or where they live. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions regarding a child’s upbringing, including their education, healthcare, and religious or moral upbringing. Legal and physical custody may be shared by both of a child’s parents, or one parent may be granted sole legal or physical custody.
How is Custody Determined?
When a court is asked to resolve a custody dispute between parents, the overriding standard the court must follow is whether a custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. The child’s best interest is based on multiple factors that the court must evaluate, including the parents’ willingness to cooperate in child-rearing, the fitness of the parents, the extent and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child, the child’s educational/extracurricular/medical/special needs, the parents’ employment responsibilities, any history of domestic violence, and the child’s own expressed reasoned preference if they have developed sufficient maturity.
Can I Negotiate a Child Custody Arrangement?
Courts permit parents to negotiate a custody arrangement themselves, which reflects the rights of parents to raise their children in a way they see best for their child. A negotiated custody agreement can then be presented to the court to be turned into a court order so that if one parent violates the agreement the other can turn to the court to enforce the terms of the agreement.
Can a Child Custody Order Be Modified?
A court order for child custody may be modified if the parent seeking modification can show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the current order was established and that any proposed change to the custody order is in the child’s best interest.
Is Primary Custody Automatically Granted to Mothers?
Courts are not permitted to consider the gender of a parent or a child when deciding custody. Therefore, contrary to the popular opinion of some, courts do not discriminate against fathers or have a predisposition to grant primary physical custody to mothers. However, courts are permitted and in fact, required to consider the nature of strength of each parent’s relationship with their child. Thus, if a mother was a primary caregiver for the child, the court may find that it is in the child’s best interest not to disrupt that relationship. However, even in such circumstances, fathers can present evidence showing that granting them primary custody would be in their child’s best interest.
Does a History of Domestic Violence Impact Child Custody?
Courts may decline to award custody to a parent who has engaged in acts of abuse or violence against their child or against other members of the parent’s household. In cases where the child was not the target of the abuse and did not witness any abuse by their parent, courts may award limited custody or supervised visitation.
Contact a Cherry Hill Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Child Custody in New Jersey Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. Family law attorney, Lois Garber Schwartz, Esq. represents clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Medford, and Moorestown. She understands how challenging this time can be for you, which is why she will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call her at (856) 482-8799 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. She has an office conveniently located at 1040 Kings Hwy. N., Suite 202, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.