Child custody laws are established on a state-by-state basis. With that noted, there is a tremendous amount of commonality in child custody statutes from one jurisdiction in the United States to another.
One element common in child custody statutes is the standard to be applied by a court when making a custody determination. The guideline utilized in all states is known as the best interests of the child standard.
Legal Overview of the Best Interests of the Child Standard
The best interests of the child standard focuses on the needs of the minor and not the objectives of the parents. The court is called upon to consider a wide range of factors on a case-by-case basis to ascertain what custodial arrangement will best meet the needs of the minor child.
Factors Considered in Evaluating the Best Interests of the Child
The factors utilized by a court in applying the best interests of the child standard can vary rather significantly from one case to another. However, there are some factors that are applied in nearly all cases.
A key consideration is which of the parents historically has been the primary caregiver for the child. Public policy dictates that a child subject to custody proceedings should experience the least amount of disruption in his or her life as possible. This means that the court does give at least some deference to permitting the historic primary caretaker of the minor child to carry on with that role into the future.
Other factors considered by the court in ascertaining a custodial arrangement that is in the best interests of a child include the general physical and mental health of the parents and the minor. The current living situation of each parent also comes into play, with a focus on a residential environment that is physically and otherwise structured to serve the needs of a minor child. New Jersey’s child custody statute N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) lists 14 factors that are used by the courts in determining child custody. Click here for an article that list said factors and describes what is involved with a contested child custody case in New Jersey.
In cases in which custody is disputed, it is important for a parent to understand the process by which custodial determinations are made. More than anything else, this includes a clear understanding of the best interests of the child standard that is utilized by U.S. court to make custody decisions.
Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. This certification is granted only to a small percentage of New Jersey Lawyers. He has been a practicing New Jersey lawyer for 23 years. Mr. Van Aulen has successfully handled a number child custody cases. If you are facing a New Jersey child custody case and have any questions, please call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free initial consultation.