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Can my child decide which parent they want to live with?

Divorce is not a new occurrence. Many divorce disagreements revolve around which parent takes care of the children.

In general, although children don't have any direct say in which parent they live with, the New Jersey court's prime consideration is to act in the best interests of the child. If a child is 12 years old or older, the court will take into consideration the child's wishes, among the other factors.

Factors when determining child custody

There are two aspects of child custody: Physical custody (where the child will live) and legal custody (who makes decisions on behalf of the child).

When determining what is in the best interests of the child, the court starts with the assumption that the child is most likely to thrive with access to both parents. Therefore, while sole custody (in which the child lives with one parent and receives time with the other) is a possibility, the court prefers to decree joint custody (in which the child lives with a primary parent but alternates between the two, and parents together share legal custody).

When parents seek joint custody, a judge will look into how well the parents communicate and cooperate with regard to the child.

Other factors the court will examine include:

  • How the child interacts with parents and siblings
  • Stability of the home
  • Parental employment
  • The responsibilities of each parent's employment
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • The child's preference if 12 years old or older

In New Jersey, grandparents can also legally seek visitation rights.

Work out your own parenting time

The court recognizes that parents who work out their own custody schedule are better equipped to handle and change in the child's needs than a court-ordered custody schedule, so parents are encouraged to develop their own custody schedule.

New Jersey also adheres to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, which provides that the child's home state's laws will apply to custody decisions. This allows all states to enforce out-of-state custody orders and makes interstate child abduction a crime.

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Weinberg & Cooper, LLC - family law attorney

Weinberg & Cooper, LLC
One University Plaza, Suite 516
Hackensack, NJ 07601

Phone: 201-580-3934
Fax: 201-487-7006
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