How the best interest of children are determined

New Jersey parents that must agree to child custody arrangements whether due to a divorce or another situation know that there is no one-size-fits-all custody decision. When courts are involved in making these determinations, finding a solution that is in the best interests of the child is generally the guiding principle. Understanding what this entails is important for parents pursuing child custody.

As noted by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there is no standard definition of what is in the best interests of kids. This is in large part because every situation is truly unique. The standards that fit one family may not even be evident in another. Courts must weigh a variety of factors in order to identify what is best for children in a given case. The State of New Jersey indicates that preference is given to ensuring ongoing contact with both parents except in cases involving abuse or violence. This could involve a joint custody award or sole custody with appropriate amounts of parenting time allocated for other.

Some of the items considered by courts involve the following:

  • The number of children and ages of each child in a family
  • The ability of each parent to function well as a parent
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The level of positive co-parenting and communication that can occur between parents
  • The basic or special needs of each child
  • The overall stability of each home environment

For older children, their direct wishes about where they would like to live may also be utilized in making a final custody decision.