Most aspects of your divorce have an emotional element to them but perhaps none more so than decisions regarding parenting time and child custody. You obviously have your child’s interests at heart, but you may also worry about preserving your parent-child relationship.

If you are planning to divorce or in the early stages of it, you may have questions about what goes into the child custody decisions and what you can expect. Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions you may have.

Is it necessary to go to court over child custody?

It is possible, and often preferable, to use methods other than litigation to negotiate child custody matters out of court. However, if you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on your own, your case must go to court and a judge must make a child custody determination.

What factors do New Jersey courts consider when making child custody decisions?

The child’s interest is always the principle guiding a decision regarding child custody. The court considers your engagement with the child as well as your willingness to cooperate with your co-parent. It considers the child’s needs as well as his or her preferences in a child mature enough to express it intelligently. If there are circumstances that may affect a parent’s fitness, such as domestic violence, the court will take those into consideration as well.

Is it possible to share custody?

If circumstances warrant it, the court may award sole physical and/or legal custody to one parent. However, you and your spouse can request joint legal and physical custody if you are willing to share parenting responsibilities more or less equally. Legal custody refers to decision-making authority for the child, while physical custody refers to where the child lives.