When we talk about custody in New Jersey, we really discuss two different types of custody; legal custody and residential custody. Legal custody is the term that we use for important decisions you make for your children, including anything related to their health, education, and welfare.
The presumption in New Jersey is that parents are going to share joint legal custody, meaning that they are going to jointly make these decisions for their children. Sometimes a parent is not quite capable of making decisions, such as if there is a drug or alcohol dependency or some type of mental illness. In that case, a parent can request sole legal custody, meaning that they want to be the only parent to make the decision for their children. Usually there will still be some type of consultation requirement with the other parent.
The other aspect of custody is physical custody, and that’s really the term that we use when we describe where the children live on a day-to-day basis. Within the physical custody component, there are different types. There is what would be considered primary physical custody, meaning the children reside primarily with one parent, and have parenting time with the other parent. Typically, in this situation, we think of the traditional sense of the kids living with one parent and having alternate weekends with the other parent and maybe a dinner during the week.
The other type of physical custody would be shared physical custody. That is when both parents are more actively involved in the day to day and overnights with the children. When a parent has 104 overnights with a child, it would make it fall into the shared physical custody category. There is also what we call “true shared physical custody”. That is when the parents have true, equal, fifty-fifty time with the children.
This becomes very important when we talk about child support because the overnights have a direct implication on the child support that is paid for a child. Child support alone is never a reason to agree to a certain custody structure. You really need to enter a decision that you feel is best for your children.
Paris P. Eliades Law Firm, LLC serves clients in Sussex, Morris, and Passaic County and throughout New Jersey with compassionate, quality legal services. Contact our office today for a free initial consultation.