What are New Jersey's laws on child custody and visitation?

Understanding Child Custody in New Jersey

In New Jersey, child custody and visitation laws are designed to serve the best interests of the child, a standard that is common across many states. The state differentiates between two types of custody: legal custody, which pertains to the right to make important decisions about the child’s welfare, and physical custody, which relates to where the child will live.

Types of Custody in New Jersey

Legal custody can be either sole or joint. Joint legal custody allows both parents to have an equal say in major decisions regarding education, religion, and healthcare. In contrast, sole legal custody grants this decision-making power to only one parent. Physical custody also comes in various forms, including sole physical custody or shared physical custody. Shared physical custody does not necessarily mean an equal division of time but rather significant periods of parenting time for each parent.

The Best Interests of the Child

When determining custody arrangements, New Jersey courts consider factors such as the parents' ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child; the needs of the child; the stability of the home environment; the fitness of the parents; and the quality and continuity of the child's education.

Visitation Rights

Non-custodial parents are typically granted visitation rights unless there is evidence that visitation would be harmful to the child. Visitation schedules can vary widely based on each family's circumstances and might include evenings during the week, alternate weekends, and holidays. In situations where there might be a concern for the child’s safety, supervised visitation may be ordered by the court.

Modifying Custody and Visitation Orders

Custody and visitation orders are not permanent and can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances. To modify an existing order, one must show that there has been a substantial change since the original order was made and that a new arrangement would better serve the child’s interests.

Historical Cases Influencing Child Custody Laws in New Jersey

A landmark case in New Jersey's family law history is Sacharow v. Sacharow, wherein it was established that any modification of custody must primarily reflect the best interests of the child. Another significant case is Bisbing v. Bisbing, which clarified legal standards regarding a parent's relocation with the child.