Custody basics in New Jersey
Legal custody"Joint legal custody", which is awarded is pretty much every case, means that the two of you are required to communicate and cooperate as to all major decisions (for example, elective surgery, educational decisions, etc). It also provides that both parents have access to all records regarding the children (educational, medical, etc) and permits either parent to authorize medical treatment, etc. Both parents are legally equal.
Joint legal custody is the presumption in New Jersey. It's extremely rare to see "sole legal custody."
Residential custody"Residential custody" determines where the children live. If the children live with one of the parents more time than the other, then one parent is named the "parent of primary residence (PPR)" (the "legally correct term") or the older terms are sometimes used - the "primary parent" or the "custodial parent." The parent who the children live with less of the time is the "parent of alternate residence (PAR)", the "noncustodial parent." Unless the custody agreement addresses the issue and determines something to the contrary, the PPR has the "final say" on "day to day decisions" (like discipline). If the parties can't reach an agreement on an issue that isn't major, then the PPR's decision controls.
The custody statute in New Jersey states that "parental rights are equal." If shared residential custody isn't the "norm" at this point, it's close to it. If someone is seeking it, it was once an oddity but is now almost guaranteed that some form of shared custody will be ordered.
Shared custodyIf the children live equally with both parents, which is becoming much more common, and both parties live in the same school district, it isn't mandatory to name either parent PPR / PAR. If the children live equally and the parents don't live in the same school district, people will sometimes agree that one party is "named PPR for educational purposes only."
Be careful with this - the State regulations in a 50/50 custody situation require that the child attend in the district where the child lived on October 15 [an arbitrary date] of the preceding year - school districts can sue for tuition if the child attends the other parent's district.
Parenting time"Parenting time" is the proper / current term for what was once called "visitation." A parenting time schedule sets out when the children will be with each parent. It can be formal or informal, depending on the case, the level of cooperation, and the ages of the children.