NJ Divorce and Child Custody Attorney

Serving Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean Counties and all of NJ

If you have children and are getting divorced or ending a civil union or domestic partnership, custody will be one of the most important – and potentially most contentious – aspects of your separation. At Romanowski Law Offices, we provide knowledgeable and experienced representation for child custody disputes in New Jersey.

Child Custody Basics

In custody disputes, the New Jersey courts focus on one concern: the best interests of the child. The parents will first be required to mediate their dispute in order to try to reach a mutually acceptable parenting plan. If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to court for decision by a judge. In either case, the “best interests” factors will be the driving force behind establishing the parents’ respective rights to custody and visitation.

Before entering into a custody dispute, it is important to familiarize yourself with how custody works in New Jersey. This page provides an overview of the types of custody. The family law attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices can help you understand your options, take steps to improve your chances of obtaining your desired custody rights, and then pursue those rights in mediation and at trial.

Types of Child Custody

In New Jersey, there are two types of child custody: legal and residential. Depending on the best interests of the child, both types of custody can be granted to a single parent (“sole” custody); or, the court may decide that the parents should share certain custody rights (“shared” custody).

Legal Custody in New Jersey

“Legal custody” refers to the right to make important, non-routine life decisions for your children. For example:

  • While choosing what to serve a child for dinner on any given day is a routine decision, the decision that a child will be raised in a religion where certain dietary laws and restrictions must be observed would be considered non-routine.
  • Deciding to take a child to the movies would be considered routine. However, deciding what maturity level the child should be exposed to may be non-routine.
  • Deciding to get your child a haircut is generally routine. However, allowing a child to color, tint, or radically cut his or her hair might be non-routine.
  • Allowing a child to wear an innocuous press-on “tattoo” would typically be considered routine. However, permitting a child to have a piercing done is not.
  • Deciding whether to drop your child off at school or let him or her take the bus may be considered routine. However, determining where your child will go to school is not.

If parents share joint legal custody, they must make these non-routine decisions together. As a result, underlying any joint legal custody award is a presumption that the parents will be able to come to terms in making important life decisions for their children. If one parent makes such a decision without consulting the other, the non-included parent can file a motion for relief in court. For example, if one parent signs a child up for football when the other parent is opposed to the physical risks involved, the opposed parent can file a motion to prevent the child from participating and to caution the other parent against making additional one-sided non-routine decisions in the future.

In sole custody situations, the parent without legal custody must respect the custodial parent’s decisions, and must seek the custodial parent’s consent prior to undertaking any non-routine activities with the child. In the event of a disagreement, either parent can seek relief by filing a motion with the court.

Residential Custody in New Jersey

Residential custody (also known as “physical” custody) refers to the right to provide the primary home environment for your child. In most cases, residential custody is either “sole” or “shared”:

  • Sole Residential Custody – With sole residential custody, the custodial parent lives with the child greater than five days per week, excluding vacation arrangements. The non-custodial parent may have parenting time with the child for less than two overnight equivalents in the average week.
  • Shared Residential Custody – With shared residential custody, neither parent lives with the child more than five days per week. The parent who has the children for the majority of the average week is known as the “parent of primary residence” (PPR), while the parent having the children for less than half of the time is called the “parent of alternate residence” (PAR).

There is also a third, though far less common, form of residential custody. With “split custody,” each parent as sole residential custody of one or more of the couple’s children. While the New Jersey courts will typically find that it is in children’s best interests to live with their siblings, in some cases, living separately may outweigh the benefits of living together.

In any case, the court may also award child support to a custodial parent.

Speak with an Attorney at Romanowski Law Offices Today

If you are preparing for a divorce or separation, the attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices can help you fight for the custody rights you desire. To schedule an expert, confidential consultation, call (732) 603-8585 or contact us online today.