Few parts of the divorce are more stressful that the worry of how it will affect the children. The lifestyle change is significant, and learning the basic terminology to discuss your options can be daunting.
Custody is often a contentious issue, and there are two primary elements: physical custody (guardianship), and legal custody (decision-making). Both are influential to your children and affect your continuing relationship with them, but each in a different way.
What does it all mean?
Legal custody - This means a parent has the right to make major decisions for the child. Examples include school choice, medical decisions and religious upbringing. Both parents can have decision-making rights, depending on the agreement.
Primary/sole custody - This arrangement allows one parent to make decisions without seeking consensus with the other. It does not mean the other parent will not have a relationship, but affects the decision-making process.
Joint custody - This applies to any arrangement where both parents share both physical and decision making responsibilities. It varies significantly from rotating living arrangements to single day visitation.
Physical custody - This phrase refers to where the child lives on a daily basis. Visitation is still allowed (in most cases) through a joint custody or co-parenting agreement.
Finding the right plan
When going through an emotional process like divorce, it's important to focus on taking care of your kids and finding a plan that accommodates everyone in a realistic way. Competition and anger may make you want a parenting plan that is not be reasonable for your lifestyle or for your kids' needs.
As you consider options, parents need to remember the limitations and strengths of each. Custody designations are not always a restriction, but also respect the flexibility that's necessary to raise a child. A parenting plan balances needs, schedules, relationships and human lives.
For a better understanding of custody in New Jersey, whether you're wondering what is the best choice for you or how to legally attain custody, consult with an experienced family law attorney who has worked in your local courts.
There are many puzzle pieces to arrange when choosing the right custody for your situation. Your decision will have a lasting impact on your children.