Determining Custody and Visitation in a New Jersey Divorce

NEW JERSEY CHILD CUSTODY: Sole or joint custody may be awarded based on the following factors: (1) the physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child; and (2) the preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and capacity. No preference is to be given because of parent's sex. A father may not forcibly take a minor child from a mother's actual physical custody. [New Jersey Statutes Annotated; Title 2A, Chapter 34-23 and New Jersey Case Law]. (Provided by Divorcesource).

Visitation in a New Jersey Divorce

Overview to Visitation

Visitation is the part of the court order that defines when, how and where the non-custodial parent may have contact with the child. Visitation is limited by the fact that legal custody belongs to the other parent. This means that your visitation does not give you the authority to conflict with the long range decisions and policies of the parent with legal custody. For example, if the parent with legal custody has decided to raise the child in the Jewish tradition, the parent with visitation rights may not take the child to be baptized in a Catholic church.

There are no reported cases of a court honoring complete denial of visitation for a parent. Even in cases of abuse, the only reported cases have upheld supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is when the parent is only allowed to visit with the child in the company of another person. This person is usually a friend or relative that the two parents agree will be allowed to act as a chaperon. Supervised visitation often calls for a restriction of visitation to a particular location and time.

Who can be awarded visitation?

Obviously a biological parent can be awarded visitation. Additionally, grandparents (even when the parents weren't married or are not currently divorced) and step-parents may be awarded visitation rights. While there are no reported cases of brothers or sisters being given visitation, a strong argument could be made that it would be in the best interest of the child.

When can visitation be denied?

The court has the power to deny visitation. Normally the court will only stop visitation for a certain time or until a certain task is performed. For example, the court has previously stayed visitation until the parent met their financial obligation.  Many parents feel they have the right to stop paying child support, but they are wrong. Withholding of child support will only get you in trouble and possibly arrested.

Long distance solutions

Technology offers some innovative and creative ways for parents separated from their children to connect. "Virtual" visitation is coming to be recognized by the courts as a potentially important way to supplement in-person visits.

What if you fear for your child's safety or just do not want to see the other parent?

Supervised visitation protects the safety of the child and centers are available throughout New Jersey. "Monitored Exchange" programs allow the child to move from one parent to the other without meeting.

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