Q) How will a judge make a decision about custody?
A) When deciding who will be awarded custody, a judge will try to make an arrangement that he/she thinks is in the best interest of your child. Generally, the court will try to make sure that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting. This means that the court is inclined to let both parents play an active role in taking care of the child and making decisions about the child’s life. The court will base its decision on many factors. In accordance with N.J.S.A. 9:2-4, some of the things a judge will consider are:
- Both parents’ ability to agree, talk with one another and cooperate about issues relating to the child.
- Whether you and the other parent want custody.
- If either parent has refused to let the other parent see the child. However, a judge will not take this into consideration if you prove that you denied access because you or your child were being abused.
- Your child’s relationship with both parents and any siblings. The court tries to make sure children will have an ongoing relationship with their brothers and sisters.
- How many other children you have and how old they are.
- The history of domestic violence, if there is one.
- The safety of your child and of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent.
- Which parent your child would rather live with, if s/he is old enough to make an intelligent decision.
- What your child’s needs are.
- How stable both parents’ homes are.
- The quality and continuity of your child’s education-in other words, whether your child would have to change schools, and how good of an education s/he will receive.
- The general fitness of both parents.
- Generally speaking, the court looks at the character, habits, and physical and mental condition of both parents to see whether it thinks you are “fit”.
- The distance between the parents’ homes.
- Usually, the court will consider how far the distance is between both parents’ homes and whether either parent plans to move out of state.
- How much time and the quality of the time that both parents spent with the child, before or after you split up.
- Both parents’ employment responsibilities.
- If either parent did not participate in the Parent’s Education Program (See What is the Parent’s Education Program?).