What is Joint Custody?
When parents divorce, one of the most important things that must be decided is who will have custody of the children. If both parents are willing and able to cooperate with each other and work together in the child’s best interest, they can be awarded joint custody of their children. Joint custody is very common in New Jersey, and can be agreed upon by the parents or ordered by the court.
Types of Joint Custody
Joint custody in New Jersey is comprised of two major categories, joint legal custody and joint physical custody.
Joint Legal Custody
When parents are awarded joint legal custody, they each get equal input when making important decisions about the child’s life. If the parents cannot come to an agreement on these issues, the matter will have to go before a court. These issues include:
- Medical Care – If the child gets sick or injured, both parents will get a say in what kind of medical treatment he or she receives, and where he or she receives it.
- Education – Parents with joint legal custody will each have access to their child’s education records, and get to decide where their child goes to school.
- Religious Upbringing – Each parent will get equal input on what religious practices or education the child will have, if any. If the parents are of two different religions, they can often come to an agreement that will allow the child to practice both. If they cannot reach an agreement, the issue may have to go to court where a judge will decide what is best for the child based on his or her family history and current living situation.
- Name Change – Situations sometimes arise where one parent would like to change the child’s name. If the other parent objects, it usually falls on the parent who wants the change to provide evidence that shows it is in the child’s best interest.
Joint Physical Custody
Whereas legal custody governs who gets to make decisions regarding the child, physical custody governs who the child will live with. Parents with joint physical custody typically have joint legal custody as well. When parents have joint physical custody, the child has a legal residence in both of the parents’ homes. The child can alternate living with each parent based on a predetermined schedule, for example living with each parent every other week or month. This arrangement works best if the parents are able to communicate well and live in close proximity to each other, so the child can attend school normally and be transported between the two homes easily.
Is Joint Custody the Best Option for My Family?
Joint custody has several benefits. The child will not have to ‘take sides,’ and will have an easier adjustment period after the difficult divorce process. Also, there will be less burden on each parent if they get to share time with the child equally. Joint custody works well in situations where both parents can cooperate and work together, but it does not work for every situation. If one of the parents poses a danger to the child in some way, or cannot be relied on to take care of or make decisions regarding the child, sole custody may be best. Contact Katherine K. Wagner today to discuss your options regarding child custody.