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Are Mothers More Likely to Get Child Custody During Divorce?
The question of child custody is one that many couples facing divorce ask themselves. Many people mistakenly believe, and many may try to tell you, that mothers usually get custody of the children in a divorce. Like with a lot of “common knowledge,” this one isn’t necessarily true. Here’s how the New Jersey family courts handle custody arrangements and who’s more likely to get custody.
Let’s Take a Look at New Jersey Custody Law Today
When it comes to current New Jersey custody law, there’s one very important thing to remember: The law is completely gender-neutral. Under this law, both parents have equal rights, and both parents have equal opportunity and claim to be given custody.
This means that the mother shouldn’t automatically assume she’ll get the kids, and the father shouldn’t assume that he has no hope of getting custody. In fact, the New Jersey law states that children should have regular contact with both parents in order to be happy and successful.
Let’s Revisit the Different Forms of Custody We’ll Be Discuss
We need to start this conversation by talking about what custody is, according to the New Jersey courts. There are four main types of custody:
- Legal custody refers to the parent who has the authority to make decisions that will impact the child’s life. This includes decisions related to education, health and safety, religious affiliation, and general well-being.
- Physical custody refers to which parent with whom the child physically resides.
- Joint custody refers to when both parents share the custodial arrangements of the child in one or more aspects.
- Sole custody refers to when only one parent is allowed to participate in the custodial arrangements of the child.
How custody usually works in New Jersey
One of the first things that a New Jersey family court will look at is which parent spent the most time caring for the child prior to the divorce. That parent is usually given physical custody of the child and the other parent will be granted visitation rights.
In the past, this might have meant women would have gotten custody more often as stay-at-home moms were more common. However, with more and more dads taking active roles in raising children and some staying home to do so, this previous trend may be going away.
It’s helpful to understand that the family court tries as much as possible to split the time as much as it’s practical. If the divorced parents live nearby each other, it’ll be easier to share custody than if one parent moves to another city, for instance. However, the parent with primary physical custody will usually be the one to receive child support payments, as the majority of the child’s bills will probably fall under their household.
Many parents share joint legal custody, meaning they can both have a say in the raising of the child as it pertains to health, welfare, education, and religious upbringing. In this way, the parents must set aside past differences and cooperate in the best interests of the child. If one parent decided on something (such as changing the child’s school, for instance) without consulting with the other parent, then that parent could file a sanction with the court system and possibly receive redress.
All this changes, however, if one of the parents is deemed to be unfit or absent. In this case, the parent who isn’t unfit will often be granted sole custody and have the full rights to make decisions for the child.
What constitutes a child’s best interest?
A child’s “best interest” may seem like a vague term. But here are some of the factors that New Jersey law provides judges to guide them in making their determination:
- How well can the parents cooperate and communicate with each other when it comes to matters concerning the child?
- Are the parents willing to accept the custody agreement and is there a history of not allowing the other person to parent?
- How well do the parents interact with the child and his or her siblings?
- Is there a history of domestic violence or substance abuse?
- Is the child mature enough to make an intelligent decision regarding which parent he or she would prefer to live with?
- Does the child have any specific needs that must be addressed?
- Which home provides a more stable environment?
- Which home can best provide the quality and continuity of the child’s education?
- Are the parents fit to exercise custody?
- How close are the parents’ homes to each other?
- How much quality time did the child spend with the child before or after the separation?
- What are the parents’ employment responsibilities?
- What are the children’s ages?
Get Legal Help to Ensure Your Parental Rights
Understanding the intricacies of a custody agreement can be tricky. That’s why it is important to get the best legal help you can. A qualified New Jersey family attorney at the Smedley Law Group will help you understand your rights and what you need to do to ensure your children’s well-being.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.