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There is a statute in New Jersey, New Jersey Statutes: Title 9, Section 2-1, et seq. that lists which factors the courts must consider in determining custody and parenting time. The overriding mantra is what is in the best interests of the children. Courts will always try their hardest to keep both parents engaged in the children’s lives. Using that as a backdrop, the court will consider 14 factors. Depending on the specific case at hand and the family dynamics involved, some factors will be much more significant than others and the court will allot the appropriate amount of weight to the factors they consider most relevant.
Some parents don’t get along with each other but know that as parents they have to work together, and as a result, they are able to communicate wonderfully. I have heard many judges acknowledge that spouses were not good to one another, but that each were good parents; being a bad spouse doesn’t equate to bad parenting. The willingness of the parents to work together and accept and respect the custody arrangement will be considered by the judge. The judge will also consider whether one parent wants custody and the other doesn’t and whether one or the other spouse’s work schedule would prevent them from having primary physical custody. The court will consider the safety of the children and determine if either parent has a history of domestic violence. The court will review any special educational or learning needs of the children, or special talents that the parents may want to encourage (e.g. musical or athletic ability). The court will look at how close each parent lives to one another, such that living with one or the other parent would require the child to leave a particular school. Finally the court must address the number and ages of the children involved, and the identity of the caretakers who would be present when the parents are unavailable.
A child’s input will usually be considered when they reach about 13 or 14 years of age, but the child will never have the final say. The child’s preference is just one of the factors that the courts may consider. A child may express that they no longer want to live with one or the other parent, but they might just be saying that because the parent makes them do homework or takes their phone away at dinner time, while the other parent has no rules. Thus while their opinion may be important, it is only one factor.
Generally speaking, the parent who has the child the majority of the time will receive child support. If parties make under a certain amount of money, then child support will be set by a computer-based formula that considers the income of the two parties, expenses such as health insurance and daycare, whether or not either parent has other children from outside the marriage that they have to support, and the number of overnights the child spends with each parent. One parent might make a lot more money than the other, and if this is the case, then they might end up having to pay child support even if they are the primary caretaker of the children. Families who make $180,000 or more are considered high-income families by the court. In these cases, the court will look above and beyond the guidelines to determine the support obligation.
For more information on Custody & Parenting Time In New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 208-3650 today.