What is the Best Child Custody Option for My Family?
Custody of the children is one of the most difficult topics a divorce lawyer discusses with their clients, including which of several different custody arrangements will work best for that specific family. New Jersey generally focuses on two types of custody – legal and physical custody. Legal custody contemplates who has the legal right to access the children’s school and medical records? Because New Jersey’s statute truly prefers joint legal custody, as a New Jersey Child Custody Lawyer, I tell my clients, “Absent some extenuating circumstances, you and your former spouse are going to share joint legal custody.”
The next question is about physical custody. One parent will be designated what we now call the parent of primary residence. This is the parent with whom the child or children will live for the majority of their time during the course of a year. The other parent is referred to as the parent of alternate residence, and that is usually where contention arises. If both parents hope to be the parent of primary residence, the question becomes, “Is this family in a situation where a shared parenting arrangement – with the children’s time split 50/50 between mom and dad – is workable?” A lot of factors affect the potential success of a 50/50 custody arrangement, such as the proximity of the families’ homes and each parent’s work responsibilities. You’ll need to discuss these and several other factors with your attorney to determine if 50/50 custody is really right for you.
If that arrangement is not suitable for your family, one parent will be the primary parent, and the other parent – the parent of alternate residence – will have a specified parenting time schedule, which can include as much or as little time as the family elects. Often, the non-custodial parent will have alternate weekends. There may also be some dinner visits during the week. I always remind people that there’s no cookie cutter approach to custody. Job responsibilities are different in each family, and the question really becomes, “What’s in the best interest of the children?”
Ideally, the parents can work together to build custody and parenting time plans that are truly focused on their children. The one piece of custody and parenting time advice I give my clients – that I hope they really listen to – is that, because parents are the best people to really make this determination, they should do their best to sit down and step away from the fact that you’re divorcing, and really focus just on their child or children and what’s most suitable for them. Taking that approach will drive the conversation toward establishing the best custody and parenting time for your family.
Do you need help with choosing the best custody option for your family? Contact New Jersey Child Custody Lawyer Tanya L. Freeman for help.