Hunterdon County Child Custody Attorneys

While several important issues need to be resolved during a divorce, determining which parent will have custody of the children is often the primary concern.

Whether a couple shares custody of the children or one parent seeks to have sole custody, the process can become contentious if both parties cannot reach an agreeable solution. No matter the case, our Hunterdon County child custody attorneys fully understand the complex laws that govern custody issues, and we can help you find an effective solution.

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, there are two types of child custody:

  • Legal custody: This determines the parents’ right to make decisions regarding their children’s education, health care, religion, and general upbringing. There are two types of legal custody, including:
    • Joint legal custody: This is the preferred outcome of custody cases since it allows both parents to participate in the children’s day-to-day activities and mutually make major decisions that impact them. Parents can also include provisions in their custody agreement that will help resolve conflicts should they arise.
    • Sole legal custody: A parent may be awarded sole legal custody if a judge finds the other parent to be unfit. According to New Jersey law, a parent is generally considered unfit if they are incapable of being responsible for the child’s basic needs, such as providing a safe home, proper nutrition, health care, and education, or they behave in a way that endangers the child’s welfare.
  • Physical custody: This determines where the child will primarily live and how much time a child spends in each parent’s home. Like legal custody, there are two types of physical custody:
    • Joint physical custody: This means that the children spend an agreed-upon amount of time with each parent. However, in many cases, one parent is known as the “parent of primary residence,” which means that the children spend more than half of the overnights in a year with that parent. The other parent is known as the “parent of alternate residence.” These designations are important when negotiating child support obligations. These designations may also be used for school attendance purposes in cases where the children’s residency is split 50/50 between parents; one parent may serve as the parent of primary residence strictly to establish the school district where the children will attend.
    • Sole physical custody: If a parent is awarded sole physical custody, it means that the children live with them most of the time and spend less than two nights per week with the noncustodial parent.

There is a presumption in New Jersey that parties will have joint legal custody, thereby sharing in major decisions. However, the extent of parental involvement may vary. In rare circumstances, sole legal custody may be warranted.

Every case is different, and numerous factors are examined before the Judge makes a final decision regarding custody.

What Factors Do Judges Consider When Making Child Custody Decisions?

When making decisions about child custody, the children’s best interests are always the top priority. If a parent is considered unfit, it will impact the outcome of the custody Order. The Court will consider the following factors, among others, before ruling on child custody:

  • The parents’ ability to communicate respectfully and cooperate in important matters that impact the child.
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody.
  • The relationship between the child and their parents.
  • History of domestic violence or abuse.
  • Stability of the home environment of each parent.
  • Whether the children’s educational needs are being met.
  • The proximity of both parents’ homes to each other’s.
  • The parents’ employment responsibilities and how they impact the children.

Can a Child Custody Order Be Modified?

Once a final custody Order has been issued, it will generally be in effect until the child turns 18, or is no longer attending school. However, some circumstances may warrant modifying the existing child custody Order. For example, if one parent gets a new job, they may need to modify the custody arrangement so that it works with their new schedule.

A Consent Order may be filed, where both parties agree to the changes and present the agreement to the Court. If the Judge approves the changes, the modification will be incorporated into the record. If the parents cannot reach an agreement about the custody modification, the parent requesting the change must file a motion with the Court to modify the prior Order. The parent must also demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that warrant modification. Possible examples include the following:

  • A parent has become physically or emotionally abusive.
  • One or both parents have relocated.
  • The child’s education has been negatively impacted.
  • The child’s needs have changed as they have gotten older.
  • A parent refuses to comply with the existing custody Order.

If you and your spouse, or child’s other parent, have custody issues that need to be resolved, the attorneys of Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC can help. We can work to negotiate the best possible custody agreement.

Hunterdon County Child Custody Attorneys at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC, Can Help Work Towards the Best Possible Solution in Your Custody Case

The experienced Hunterdon County child custody attorneys at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC can help you with your custody matter. Call us at 908-800-7676 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. 

Located in Somerville, New Jersey, our attorneys serve clients throughout Central New Jersey, including those in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Warren County, Morris County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Middlesex County.