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Child custody cases turn on best interests of the child

The outcomes of child custody cases in New Jersey depend heavily on the facts. In most cases though, judges make their determinations based on one or more of a few different factors. Custody cases generally turn on the best interests of the child or children involved. The best interests criterion may include almost anything related to the children. The ages of the children, their routines, their educations and their preferences may bear on the judge's decision.

The situations of each of the parents usually bears on the best interests analysis as well, and most courts prefer that the parents share responsibility for the kids following divorce or separation. In examining the parental situations, courts will look at each parent's income and job security, lifestyle and history, including any criminal record. The court may also take geographic considerations into account, if they are likely to impact quality of life for the child or children. If a particular custody arrangement would require them to change schools, for example, a judge may be less likely to order it because the change in geography could have a negative impact on them.

Judges generally havw broad discretion to make these decisions, and every custody case is unique. Physical custody, also referred to as primary residential custody, is usually awarded to one of the parents even in shared custody situations. In cases where child support is ordered, it is paid to the parent who has physical custody.

In a case where New Jersey parents are divorcing or there are otherwise child custody issues, an attorney may be able to help by gathering evidence in support of the client and developing an argument for sole or shared custody. An attorney may be able to communicate with the family court on the client's behalf or help negotiate a parenting plan.

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