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How does a judge determine child custody?

The predominant standard to determine who children should live with after their parents’ divorce is what is in their best interests. This benchmark to ascertain child custody may seem confusing to some New Jersey parents, so it may be prudent to understand how a family court judge might consider the issues. There are generally common things judges in all states will look at. 

Some factors that will be considered 

Here are some things a family court judge will likely consider when determining child custody: 

  • Parenting ability. Can both parents meet the needs of the child emotionally as well as physically? Can each provide the necessities like food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, etc.? 
  • The child’s age. Younger children may need more care overall. A judge will also consider who has been the main caregiver of the child. 
  • Consistency in routine. Children thrive on consistency and they do not like change. A judge may look at the consistency of living arrangements, school, visiting with members of the family, etc. 
  • How changing a current routine might impact a child. 
  • Safety. A judge will not grant custody to a parent if he or she believes a child will be unsafe. 
  • Most judges like to keep things as the status quo if routines are working for the children. If one parent is planning on relocating, that parent will have to provide evidence why it may be best for the child. A judge does realize, too, that it’s usually best for a child to have significant relationships with both parents as long as violence isn’t involved. 

When a judge is determining child custody, it can be very stressful for parents. A New Jersey parent facing this emotionally fraught time may find it less trying with the advice of a lawyer. It may be one of the best things a parent can do to get through the proceeding.