Spouse Abroad-How Much Does Sole Custody Matter in New Jersey? By Santo Artusa on September 16, 2020

1. How Much Does Sole Legal Custody and Sole Residential/Primary Residential Custody Matter in New Jersey?
2. My Spouse is Abroad, Can I Have Sole Legal Custody?

3. Will the Court Approve My Divorce is My Spouse is in Another Country?

Obviously as a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer in Hudson County's Jersey City, I often am asked about sole legal custody and sole or primary residential custody in New Jersey. It is important to know that sole or joint legal custody have nothing to do with parenting time but in fact have everything to do with the legal decision making ability of the parent or parents. For example a sole custodial parent can chose which school the child goes to without having to discuss with the other parent. While the sole residential/primary residential parent with joint legal custody still has to discuss critical topics like which school to attend. While sole legal custody is great to have, it is not easy to obtain. And while it is not easy to obtain, you should not get caught up in legal titles. A parent can still essentially get certain rights a sole custodial parent has with the right court order or right agreement. What is more important to me and many others is residential custody and that is where your child lives the majority of the time. Where the child lives is usually the district and area where the child will go to school and spend most of his or her time.

And while it is hard to obtain sole legal custody, factors such as your spouse living far away or especially in another country like China, Brazil or India, can help your case for sole legal custody in New Jersey Family Court. The rationale behind sole legal when a parent is far is the inability to communicate or communicate quickly when you need to. Need to make a decision at 2pm in New Jersey and need to reach someone in China at 2am, what do you do? Spouse wants child to visit China, beware. beware of sending your child to any country that does not honor an American court order (The Hague Convention). Why is that important? If your former spouse or the non-custodial lives in a country like that and refuses to bring the child back, you will have great difficulty in getting your child back. The last thing you want is an international custody dispute.

Some of the most important factors when it comes to sole legal custody and residential custody are always what is in the "best interests" of a child or children.

  • Ability of the parents to communicate effectively
  • Proximity to each other can be a factor
  • Has there been domestic violence or a final restraining order?
  • Being active in the child's life
  • The caretaking duties
  • School Work and School Responsibilities (Who goes to the parent teacher conferences)
  • Medical Care and Attention, Doctors Visits (Who plans them, Who goes)
  •  Ability to handle residential custody/legal custody

Again it is important to not get caught up in legal titles. What is most important is what is best for your child in the long-term. Whether you are seeking legal custody and or residential, contact my team and I to discuss your case goals and see if it makes sense to work together. Until then, take care and be safe.





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Santo V. Artusa, Jr.

Santo V. Artusa, Jr.

Since 2009, Mr. Artusa has dedicated his career to representing clients in and near Jersey City in family law and criminal cases. He is a skilled negotiator and litigator who has received a range of prestigious recognitions, including:

  • The National Trial Lawyers Top 100
  • Avvo 10.0 Superb Rating
  • Client Distinction Award 2015

For more information about our legal services, contact our office online or call (973) 337-9643 today.

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