What options are there for physical custody?
In New Jersey, if the court gives you sole physical custody of your child, then your child lives with you and not with the other parent. A parent with sole physical custody is sometimes called a child’s “primary caretaker”. Generally, the primary caretaker is the person who has responsibility for the everyday care of your child and the decisions that affect that care. If the other parent has visitation rights, then s/he will be considered to be your child’s “secondary caretaker”.
Joint physical custody is where your child lives with both you and the other parent, splitting her/his time between both homes. When there is joint physical custody, both parents share the rights of making day-to-day decisions about your child and the responsibilities of caring for your child. Some things that parents with joint physical custody will both be responsible for include: feeding your child, bathing your child, arranging medical care for your child, participating in your child’s education and putting your child to bed at night. Because parents with joint physical custody usually have joint legal custody as well, it also means that both parents share the right to make major decisions about your child.
Here are some examples of joint physical custody:
- Your child spends 3 days a week with you, and 4 days a week with the other parent
- Your child spends one week, month or year with you and then the next week, month or year with the other parent.
If you have physical custody and the other parent has visitation rights (parenting time), then this is not joint physical custody. This is true even if the other parent has a large amount of visitation time.1
1Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583; 660 A.2d 485 (Supr Ct 1995).