Q. How is child custody determined?
In making custody determinations, Courts attempt to protect children's "best interests." This standard ensures a child's safety, happiness, physical, mental & moral welfare. Parental wishes will be rejected if inconsistent with the standard.
A. Unless the parties can agree, custody is determined by the "best interests of the children" standard.
There are statutory and other criteria, which Judges are to apply in making custody and parenting determinations. The Supreme Court in Beck v. Beck, 86 N.J. 480, 485 (1981) stated that the "pertinent statute [N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23] provides courts with broad authorization for custody determinations in divorce proceedings ...." See also Terry v. Terry, 270 N.J. Super 105 (App.Div.1994). In making custody determinations, Courts attempt to protect children's "best interests." This standard ensures a child's safety, happiness, physical, mental & moral welfare. Parental wishes will be rejected if inconsistent with the standard.
A number of factors bear upon a determination of what is in a child's best interest: 1. Parents' ability to agree, communicate & cooperate in child-related matters; 2. Parents' willingness to accept custody & any history of unwillingness to allow visitation not based on substantiated abuse; 3. Interactions & relationship of the child with its parents & siblings; 4. History of domestic violence, if any; 5. Safety of child & safety of either parent from physical abuse by other parent; 6. Preference of child, when of sufficient age & capacity to reason, so as to form an intelligent decision; 7. Needs of child; 8. Stability of home environment offered by each parent; 9. Quality and continuity of child's education; 10. Fitness of parents; 11. Geographic proximity of parents' homes; 12. Extent & quality of time spent with a child prior to & subsequent to separation; 13. Parents' employment responsibilities; and 14. Number & ages of children.