When New Jersey families realize they have a hard time functioning together, it comes time to create a new dynamic. In addition to divorce, this often means making custody arrangements for minor children. While each parent may want full custody of the children, that may not be the ideal situation. Before you take your former spouse to court, it’s important to learn how New Jersey custody laws work and why hiring an attorney is often necessary.


When you’re trying to settle child custody arrangements in court, it’s necessary to know that there are two kinds of custody. These are physical custody and legal custody. Just because you may be granted physical custody, that doesn’t mean the judge won’t grant legal custody to the other parent, or vice versa. For this reason, you should familiarize yourself with each term.

Physical Custody – This is typically what parents think of when they consider seeking custody of their minor children. It involves the physical living conditions of the children. The parents may each be granted partial physical custody, which means the children will spend equal time living with each parent, or one parent may be granted full custody.

Legal Custody – One parent may be granted legal custody, or both parents may share in this responsibility. This involves making decisions for the children, such as educational choices, healthcare decisions, and religious upbringing. If legal custody is shared, the parents must demonstrate an ability to talk civilly and compromise for the good of the child.


The New Jersey family court system is much like family courts throughout the country in that the primary objective is to act in the best interests of the children. It’s up to the judge overseeing each case to try to determine what that is and, at the same time, to try to keep the families together as much as possible. It’s a fine line, so the judge must look at certain factors to help him determine the best custody arrangement. These factors include:

  • Each parent’s income and fitness

  • Each parent’s career obligations

  • 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


While the previously mentioned factors are a large part of the decision-making process in custody cases, your own actions can also influence the judge. For instance, what you say both in and out of court can affect your custody rights. Particularly, criticizing the other parent, or attempting to turn the child against the other parent, will not weigh in your favor.

Similarly, an inability to communicate civilly with the other parent can harm your chances for partial custody. The judge wants to keep your family together as much as possible, but you have to show him that you can handle difficult situations. If you continuously lose your temper with your former spouse, the judge is going to conclude you can’t handle the burden of a co-parenting arrangement. In that case, he may only grant you weekly visitations.

Alternatively, putting on your best face will have a positive effect on the judge. Try to be gracious and understanding when dealing with your former spouse. Even when something really bothers you, try to find a civil way of expressing your opinion and look for a fair compromise. A more agreeable attitude will earn the judge’s respect.

If you are facing a hearing to determine the custody of your minor children, contact our offices for a consultation. New Jersey laws are complex and hiring our child custody lawyers can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Together, we can help you obtain the best possible situation for your children.