One of the top priorities for parents going through a divorce is figuring out who the children will go with. It is a decision that is emotional and stressful, but ultimately custody judgments must keep the needs of the kids in mind.
In New Jersey, the courts make child custody decisions based on the best interests of the child, and parents should do the same.
The state’s laws
According to FindLaw, the state encourages the parents to decide on custody and visitation schedules. However, the court must approve the agreement, and the court will make the decision for the parents if they are unable to agree.
Normal custody arrangements are joint and sole custody, although an alternative arrangement is possible if it is better for the children. In most cases, the court prefers joint custody, as children seem to thrive better by spending time with each parent. Exceptions are when there is proven evidence of violence, abuse or addiction. The court also considers requests by grandparents and other family members for visitation time.
Considerations for the child’s best interests
In general, custody decisions consider what is in the child’s best interests. If a child is mature and old enough, the court will take his or her wishes into consideration.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, some factors that parents or the court should examine include:
- The ability of both parents to provide a safe, stable and healthy home environment
- Current relationship with each parent
- The mental and physical health of all involved parties
- Emotional ties to siblings, other family members and caregivers
- Age and needs of each child
The safety and wellbeing of children are at the forefront of child custody decisions, and parents need to put aside their own wants to consider what is best for their children.