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Legal Information: New Jersey


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Laws current as of January 8, 2024

How will a judge make a decision about custody?

When deciding who will have custody, a judge will try to make an arrangement that s/he thinks is in the best interest of your child. Generally, the court will try to make sure that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting. This means that it tries to let both parents play an active role in taking care of your child and making decision s about your child’s life. The court will base its decision on many factors. Some of the things a judge will consider are:

  • Both parents’ ability to agree, talk with one another and cooperate about issues relating to your child;
  • Whether you and the other parent want custody;
  • If either parent has refused to let the other parent see the child. However, a judge won’t take this into consideration if you prove that you denied access because you or your children were being abused;
  • Your child’s relationship and interactions with both parents and any siblings. The court tries to make sure children will have an ongoing relationship with their brothers and sisters;
  • The number of children involved and their ages;
  • The history of domestic violence, if there is one;
  • The safety of your child and of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
  • Which parent your child would rather live with, if s/he is old enough to make an intelligent decision;
  • What your child’s needs are;
  • How stable both parents’ homes are;
  • The quality and continuity of your child’s education-in other words, whether your child would have to change schools, and how good of an education s/he will receive;
  • The general fitness of both parents;
    • Generally speaking, the court looks at the character, habits, and physical and mental condition of both parents to see whether it thinks you are “fit”;
  • The distance between the parents’ homes;
    • Usually, the court will consider how far the distance is between both parents’ homes and whether either parent plans to move out of state;
  • How much time and the quality of the time that both parents spent with the child, before or after you split up;
  • Both parents’ employment responsibilities;1 and
  • If either parent did not participate in the Parent’s Education Program, which may be ordered in cases involving divorce2 (discussed in the next question).

1 N.J. Stat. §9:2-4(c)
2 N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-12.5(c)