Child Custody: The Basics
Divorce and the process of going through a divorce, is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. Compounding this stress is the issue of custody and parenting time because children are our most prized possessions (as they should be). The emotional energy surrounding custody issues can be overwhelming, especially when the basic concepts and definitions thrown so loosely around by the attorneys and the Court are not understood by the parties. Here are some basic and helpful tips and definitions of the most frequently used terminology surrounding custody.
Types of Custody
Legal Custody: Legal custody defines the decision-making aspect of custody, access to school, medical and other records of the children. New Jersey case law and precedent favors joint legal custody wherein both parties equally participate in the decisions relating to their children and have to work together and agree upon the decisions relating to their health, education and welfare. In extreme cases, wherein the parties simply cannot agree and to such a level that it makes it impossible for the children to be consistently treated by medical providers, or interferes with their education, or is contrary to their best interests (with evidence, not getting along is not enough), the Court may award one party the sole legal custody with the decision making power.
Physical Custody: Physical custody refers to whom the children reside with. One party can be designated as Parent of Primary Residence, which, reflects that the children reside with this parent more than 50% of the time and this is seen as their primary residence. The courts can also award what is called a shared physical custody arrangement wherein the children spend equal time with both parents. Of course, a truly shared physical custody arrangement requires not only communication between the parties but the proximity of their homes must make this feasible.
In going through a divorce and addressing issues of custody, it is normal to have difficulty accepting seeing your children less and it is equally as normal for neither party to admit that their not in the position to truly enjoy the parenting time they seek. It is incredibly important to put your sadness aside and the children first as demanding a schedule you can’t accommodate places undue back and forth stress on the children and ultimately creates chaos for you. Be mindful that enjoying quality time with your children, including vacations and holidays wherein you are present both physically and mentally, is the most important aspect. Demanding time you can’t enjoy just to be called “equal” can ultimately impair the very relationship you believe you are fighting so hard to maintain.
If you are facing issues involving contested custody, the experienced lawyers at the Martone Law Group, LLC can guide you through the process to obtain not only what is best for you but what is ultimately best for your children. To schedule a consultation to discuss custody issues, please call us at (856) 617-6700.