Child Custody in the State of New Jersey law is determined by a judge based on an analysis of the child’s “best interests”. Normally, divorce court judges prefer joint custody legal custody, where parents share the major decisions involving the life of the minor child(ren), and one parent is deemed the parent of primary residence.

There are two types of custody in the State of New Jersey:

Physical Custody
Physical custody refers to the amount of time each parent is permitted physically with a child. This may be sole, primary, or joint physical custody. Physical custody is often the most debated and sought after issue of a divorce. This decision dictates where the children mainly live which affects the amount of time the child spends with either parent. The parent that is awarded the parent of primary residence will most likely also receive child support.

Legal Custody
Legal custody is the decision-making rights of the parent in regards to the child’s health, education, and welfare. If a parent is not awarded physical custody, they will often still be awarded joint legal custody. Only in rare circumstances, given sufficient reason, are parents not awarded joint legal custody.

According to New Jersey law, there are factors judges must use, but are not limited to, when considering child custody. Some other factors not listed are the child’s wishes, each parent’s prior parenting role, the future foreseeable situation of each parent, and the present behaviors and demeanor of each party throughout the process. Negative behaviors seen by or presented to the judge can affect the outcome.

Factors Considered for Child Custody*:

  • • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child.
  • • The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse.
  • • The interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings.
  • • The history of domestic violence, if any; the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.
  • • The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision.
  • • The needs of the child.
  • • The stability of the home environment offered.
  • • The quality and continuity of the child’s education.
  • • The fitness of the parents.
  • • The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes.
  • • The extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation.
  • • The parents’ employment responsibilities.
  • • The age and number of the children. A parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parents’ conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child.

*Based on New Jersey Divorce Statutes 9:2-4

Hiring an attorney early in the process of a divorce will help you protect your interests as best as possible and also give you clarity and transparency about child custody proceedings. Custody may be determined even if parties have never been married.

If you would like to discuss a custody issue, you can contact us at 877-580-2200, use the form at the right, or email us at

Evening hours are available and we offer a FREE initial consultation.