Custody & Parenting Time

Westfield Attorneys Providing Guidance in Family Law Matters

One of the most important considerations in a divorce proceeding is establishing custody and parenting time with your children following the dissolution of the marriage. Learning about your options and legal rights can allow you to make an informed decision that is beneficial to you and your children. At Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, our New Jersey family law lawyers can advise residents of Westfield and other communities across New Jersey. We listen to your concerns and investigate the details of your situation with the care and attention that you deserve.

Establishing Child Custody and Parenting Time in New Jersey

Custody arrangements may be agreed upon by the parents on their own or through mediation. If custody and parenting time are disputed, the matter will be decided by the judge presiding over the divorce case. In New Jersey, the legal standard used in making custody determinations is the best interest of the child. The court may consider many factors, including the parents’ relationship with each other and their ability to communicate and cooperate, the child’s relationships with his or her parents and siblings, any previous instances of domestic violence, the child’s needs and preferences, the ability of each parent to care for the child, the child’s education, the amount of time each parent has spent with the child, the work responsibilities of each parent, the age and number of the children, and any other relevant factors.

There are two aspects of child custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions concerning the child, such as medical treatment, education, and other significant choices. In most cases, parents will have joint legal custody of a child and share the decision-making responsibilities. In some instances, however, the judge may name only one parent as the primary legal custodian. Sole custody, when only one parent has legal and physical custody, is a rare occurrence that is ordered only when the other parent is absent or legally unfit. A parent may be unfit if he or she has engaged in child abuse or neglect or is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. If the parents share joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent for a certain amount of time during the year. A parent with whom the child spends most of the time is designated as the Parent of Primary Residence (“PPR”). The parent with whom the child has time-sharing is designated as the Parent of Alternate Residence (“PAR”). Generally, unless there is a concern that the ”PAR” will harm the child, parenting time or visitation rights will not be withheld.

Child custody arrangements vary widely depending on the particular circumstances of the parents. In every case, both parents have a duty to financially support their children, regardless of custody status. After a judgment has been entered by the court, child custody and parenting time arrangements can be modified only upon a showing that the circumstances have changed such that the current arrangement is no longer in the best interests of the child.

Consult an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyer in the Westfield Area

Negotiating child custody arrangements is a crucial aspect of divorce proceedings, and a skilled lawyer can protect and advocate for your parental rights in custody determinations. Our New Jersey divorce attorneys offer diligent legal representation to people in the Westfield area and elsewhere in the area. Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper also operates offices in Summit, Red Bank, New York, and Philadelphia. Many of our clients come from communities such as Cranford, Mendham, Little Silver, Bernardsville, Scotch Plains, or East Brunswick. To discuss your situation with one of our family law attorneys, call our office at (908) 233-6800 or contact us online for a free consultation.