Family law matters involving children may change in New Jersey if two bills become law that alter child custody determinations. Under these new proposed rules, a presumption would exist in child custody cases that a child would live with each parent for approximately equal time periods. Agreeing on child custody arrangements is difficult for many couples going through a divorce, and these new rules seek to eliminate the uncertainty and pitfalls surrounding this topic.
In essence, this could mean that joint physical custody would be expected in most custody matters. To prevent equal time with both parents, one parent would have to show that this custody arrangement would harm the child. Courts currently make decisions based on the best interests of the children in custody matters. This analysis might involve several factors like who is the child’s primary caregiver, who can provide the most stable environment, the child’s preferences and other considerations.
Those in favor of the bills want to ensure children have steady, consistent relationships with both parents and believe this will expedite the divorce process as child custody decisions would already be taken care of in most cases. Opponents of the bill do not think a blanket approach to custody is best for everyone. It may also be difficult for those with legitimate concerns to work within an imperfect legal presumption that favors joint custody.
While joint custody is not the right fit for every family, courts generally want children to have a relationship with both of their parents. Keeping this in mind, it may be preferable for parents to work out a custody or visitation schedule on their own when possible. This could save time and money and allow parents to design an arrangement that works for them instead of having a judge make determinations.