Divorce-Joint Custody and Residential Custody Explained

By Santo Artusa on November 17, 2018

There are many couples that contemplate divorce throughout the world and many times, they prevent themselves from filing from divorce or completing a divorce is because of children. The debate has gone on for decades, to say the least, should I stay or should I go? Should I stay for the kids or should I leave? If I leave, will the children come with me or live where they live now? If I file for divorce in New Jersey or my spouse does, what are my rights concerning our children? What will happen? What is Joint Custody? What is Shared Custody? What is residential/primary custody? For most people, All of this creates high-intensity anxiety. The thought of not knowing who your children will live with, how you will pay for the children as a single parent when you or spouse will see the children are all normal questions and concerns for all parents that do not agree with each other.  As a New Jersey divorce and family law attorney, I have represented many parents that seek to have their legal rights protected in the New Jersey Family Courts. Whether you have a case in Jersey City, Hoboken, West New York, Bayonne, Nutley, Clifton, Belleville, Harrison, Edgewater, Weehawken or beyond, we can handle the situation and help you immediately. We have successfully represented clients throughout the United States that have cases in New Jersey. 

Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody- What is this all about?

Joint and sole custody refer to legal custody of children. The ability to make legal decisions for the children. When you have joint custody, both parents are obligated to keep each other informed and discuss important matters together and make decisions. Whether it is about schooling, medical issues, travel, etc, joint legal custody requires that both parents confer about these important issues before a decision is made and in other situations, the one parent must inform the other parent of what is going on. Sole custody means that the sole custodial parent can make all critical decisions regarding the children. Joint custody is the norm in New Jersey and in many other states in America. While joint custody sounds great and when applied correctly can be great, it is hard if the parents do not work together, if one parent moves further away, if the information is withheld from the other parent, etc. It is important to spell out the responsibility of both parents in a marital settlement agreement and/or child custody agreement. The more information you include, the better off you will be in the future in preventing issues that will bring you back to New Jersey Family Court. For example, having the primary custodial parent inform the non-custodial parent of travel plans 90 days or more before any travel during vacation time (how the child will get there, how long the trip will last, where are they staying, best contact info, etc) makes it easier for the parents to confer and if they do not agree, they have time to talk or go to court where a Judge can decide. If you do not have this kind of clause, the one parent can simply inform you that your child will be going to Texas for 30 days and not even tell you where in Texas, with whom, etc. Detailed legal agreements always work best rather than vague ones. 

Residential Custody- What does this mean if we are 50/50% Joint Custodial Parents? 

Residential custody is about where the children will live on a day to day basis. That would be the district (if public school) the children will go to, where they will live every day and where everyday decisions will be made by the primary parent. So while parties may have joint legal custody about important legal issues, the primary or residential custodial parent makes everyday decisions for the children such as what clothes to wear, what they will eat, and in many cases which doctor(s) the children will go to. The primary parent is essentially the boss or the president if you will but of course, there are checks and balances, it is not a dictatorship. If it becomes a dictatorship, it is time to go to court and fix the situation ASAP before it becomes the norm. 

As I Have Joint Custody- Can I see My children When I want or Equally? 

If you and the other parent can have a free flowing/open and liberal parenting schedule, that is great but if you cannot, you need a parenting schedule that will outline everything from birthdays, vacation times, weekly visits, holidays, out of state/country travel etc. The more complete your parenting time is, the better off you are in preventing future battles. So while joint custody refers to legal issues, the non-residential custodial parent should have a detailed parenting schedule to protect his or her rights if the situation crumbles. 

What is Shared Parenting? 

In certain circumstances, shared parenting plans can make sense. The plan can be 50%/50% or close to it. When this occurs, parents may have the kids for one week on or one week off or 4 days one week and 3 days the other week, the combinations are endless but must be thought out. Shared parenting really requires that both parents are working together and should live relatively close to one another. The reason to stay close, usually, is in order to bring the kids to school on time, to stay in the area for extracurricular activities, maintain their relationships with friends, family, etc. I have seen shared parenting plans work with very young children even if the parties live far away but when they become school age, it is much tougher and less likely. 

In the end, the parenting schedule and titles parents' will have depends on the parents and if not the court. In most cases, the more time you have with your kids, the better off everybody will be. Whether you are about to file for divorce, have filed, have been served with divorce papers or have a child custody dispute against your ex, the family law and divorce team at the Artusa Law Firm can help you in any family court in New Jersey. To discuss your case in full confidence, contact us on 973-337-9643 to schedule an appointment in our Jersey City or Clifton locaton. 

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