Judges Do Not Often Grant Sole Custody in New Jersey
In the State of New Jersey, the courts do all that they can to preserve parental bonds and ensure that parents and their children have sufficient time with one another.
However, there are cases in which the courts may grant supervised visitation temporarily or even permanently. This is often the case when the court believes that the parent may place the child in some sort of danger. These cases usually become quite contentious and require much time and effort from all the parties involved.
If there already is a standing custody agreement in place, the parent that seeks the modification of the custody agreement must prove why a change would be necessary.
There Are Two Types of Sole Custody in NJ
Sole custody is broken down into two major categories, sole legal custody and sole physical custody.
Sole Legal Custody
When a parent is granted sole legal custody, that parent has total say over making important decisions about their child’s life. Some of the major decisions include:
- Medical Care – If the child gets sick or injured, the parent with sole legal custody will decide what medical care they receive and where they receive it.
- Education – Only the parent with sole legal custody will have access to their child’s education records and can decide where their child goes to school.
- Religious Upbringing – The parent with sole legal custody will decide what religious practices or education their child will have.
- Name Change – The parent with sole legal custody will have the option to change the child’s name without having to consult with the other parent.
A parent can be awarded sole legal custody if the other parent has been physically or emotionally abusive, has a problem with drugs or alcohol, has a history of mental illness, or is otherwise unfit to parent a child. Sometimes the other parent will surrender legal custody willingly, and no court hearing will be necessary. Otherwise, obtaining sole legal custody in New Jersey can be a lengthy and difficult legal process.
Sole Physical Custody
While legal custody dictates who gets to make important decisions for the child, physical custody is concerned with who the child will live with. Sole physical custody is generally the most severe of the custody rulings. If a parent is granted sole physical custody, it means that the child can only live with that parent. The parent who is granted sole physical custody is often called the “custodial parent” or “primary” caretaker. A non-custodial parent can and usually will be granted parenting time, but this can be denied if a court decides it is not in the child’s best interest. It is also possible for a parent to be granted sole physical custody but not sole legal custody.
Understanding Supervised Visitation
The State of New Jersey does all that it can to preserve the relationship between a parent and a child, but it also must ensure that the child is safe. When there is a concern that a parent may pose a risk to the well-being of a child, the court may require supervised visitation. Reasons for supervised visitations could include neglect, abuse, or a history of reckless decision making. If this is the case, the court will appoint a volunteer, but a family member of friend may also supervise the visitation. While permanent supervised visitation orders do arise, supervised visitation is most commonly issued on a temporary basis. They are usually re-evaluated after a set period or time or after a parent undergoes therapy or anger management courses.
Should I Pursue Sole Custody?
Many divorces usually end with some form of joint custody, as the parents are willing to set aside their differences and cooperate when it comes to their children. However, not all divorce cases are the same, and sometimes one parent is simply more fit to make decisions for their children and provide them with a stable home. In cases where one parent may actively harm or endanger a child, sole custody options should absolutely be considered. An NJ divorce lawyer can help you understand the different types of child custody, and which is best for your situation. Contact Somerset County Divorce Attorney Katherine K. Wagner today to discuss your options regarding NJ child custody.