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MY EX AND I WERE NEVER MARRIED: HOW IS CUSTODY DECIDED?

Custody of a child when parents are not married is a valid concern among couples who may be seeking separation without having formalized a marriage. The reassuring news for these types of couples is that in New Jersey, laws related to child custody, support, and parenting time are the same irrespective of the relationship status of the parents. 

In child custody and support court proceedings, unmarried couples should know that the judge’s primary concern will be to make these decisions in the best interests of the child. Therefore, unmarried parents should focus their efforts on presenting a case before the court that demonstrates he or she is protecting the best interests of the child. This article will explore the various types of custody; the factors that determine custody; and any other relevant considerations during a child custody case.

Types of Custody

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A New Jersey family court will generally begin with the assumption that a child is more likely to have a healthy and thriving childhood when he or she has an opportunity to spend time and engage with both parents. However, an exception to this notion would be a situation where there is proof of a parent’s pattern of substance abuse or domestic violence.

Here are the types of custody that New Jersey courts consider: 

Joint Custody – This situation is when the child either stays with one parent or alternates between both parents. In this arrangement, the parents make collaborative decisions related to the child’s health and education.

Sole Custody – This scenario dictates that the child stays only with one parent while getting an opportunity to spend appropriate time with the non-custodial parent. 

Other Arrangements – Depending on the situation, the court may order an alternative custody arrangement that it finds to be in the child’s best interests. 

Factors in Determining Child Custody and Visitation 

Regardless of the married or unmarried status of the parents, New Jersey family courts will consider what is in the child’s best interests. Under ideal circumstances, this consideration includes the time the child gets to spend with each parent; and the active involvement of each parent in the child’s upbringing. The courts under normal circumstances will therefore not aim to deprive either parent of their rights.

Other factors that the court will consider for custody determination include – Each parent’s: 

  • financial status: Are they financially capable of taking proper care of the child’s essential needs? 
  • residence: Has the child formed a healthy bond with and attachment to the school and the local community? 
  • moral character: Do they treat the child with care, love, and respect? Do they make an effort to provide him or her with a stable and happy environment? 

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Child Support in the Case of Unmarried Parents

After deciding child custody, child support will be the next topic for discussion and dispute. In most cases, the custodial parent in New Jersey will have the right to receive monetary support from the non-custodial parent; so that the child can get proper care in terms of health, education, and other essential needs.  Child support rules will apply even when the parents are unmarried. In a situation where the unmarried parents are living in different states, any decision related to child custody and support will still consider the child’s best interest.

Fight for Your Child Custody Rights With a Family Law Attorney

The Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A., employs an expert team of attorneys who are knowledgeable in child custody law. They will fight tirelessly for your custodial rights and support. You need an experienced and professional family law attorney to ensure your children end up in the right situation. No matter the case, no matter the client, we are here for you 24/7, 365. Call us today at (973) 358-6134 or contact us online to schedule your free, confidential phone consultation.

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