How Do Courts Handle Child Custody for Unmarried Parents in New Jersey?

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Child custody remains one of the most hotly contested issues during divorce proceedings. Whether they are married to the child’s other biological parent or not, no parent wants to relinquish custody of their child to the other parent. Nevertheless, the child custody process will be a bit different if the couple splitting up was never legally married. For more information on how the courts may handle child custody for unmarried parents, please read on, then reach out to an experienced Bergen County, New Jersey child custody lawyer as soon as possible. Some questions you may have regarding child custody between unmarried parents include:

What factors do the courts consider when determining child custody between unmarried parents in New Jersey?

First of all, you should understand that in recent years, family courts in the Garden State have become more understanding and capable of handling unmarried parents seeking child custody. Indeed, New Jersey courts now have a formal proceeding for these situations, known as a non-dissolution “FD” case. In these cases, unmarried parents can establish:

  • Paternity, child support, legal custody orders for a child under the age of twenty-one
  • Parenting time orders for biological parents, and
  • Grandparent and adult sibling visitation orders.

Regardless of whether the parents were ever married or not, the court’s utmost concern in child custody cases is serving the child’s best interests.

What types of child custody are available in New Jersey?

The state of New Jersey has three primary types of child custody arrangements. All three involve the interplay of physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody, naturally, dictates where the child primarily resides, whereas legal custody concerns what amount of control each parent has over where the child attends school, the religion the child practices, the types of medical treatments the child may receive and more. With that in mind, the three major child custody arrangements include:

  • Joint custody: When both parents have legal custody of the child and the child spends about half of his or her time at each parent’s home.
  • Joint legal custody: When the child lives at one parent’s house for most of the time, though both parents retain legal custody over the child.
  • Sole custody: Generally, courts will only grant a parent full legal and physical custody of a child when the court determines that the other parent is unfit and/or poses a significant danger to the child.

If you have any further questions relating to child custody in the Garden State, please do not hesitate to speak with a skilled Bergen County, New Jersey family law attorney today.

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