Even though parents often want 50/50 custody when they file for divorce, it is very unusual for co-parents to actually divide parental responsibilities evenly. Parents who have been the primary wage-earner for the family rather than the children’s primary caregiver may feel as though they will likely end up relegated to lesser parenting time either because of how a judge puts together a custody order or because their children would rather stay with the parent who is their primary caregiver.
Frequently, one parent spends much more time with the children and handles many more details of their lives. That parent may have a closer bond with their children and might therefore seem to have the upper hand in New Jersey custody proceedings.
No one knows until they go to court how a judge will perceive their situation, but they can familiarize themselves with the New Jersey rules regarding a child’s preference on custody matters. Can a child choose to live with one parent over the other when parents can’t agree on their own in re: how to divide parenting time?
Judges do sometimes consider a child’s wishes
Family law judges in New Jersey should do their best to put together parenting plans that reflect what the children need to thrive. Usually, that means maintaining a standard of living similar to what they knew during the marriage whenever possible and helping keep them connected to both parents.
However, simply splitting custody evenly would not be the best option for every family. Judges have to think about the unique details of the family’s situation, including the role each parent has previously played in the children’s lives and their ability to support the children. In some scenarios, judges will consider the preferences stated by older children.
There isn’t a specific age at which young adults’ wishes will automatically influence a judge’s decision. Instead, it is up to the judge to determine if the children are of sufficient maturity to have a say in the matter.
They also then determine after hearing the child’s preferences how much weight to give their wishes. A young adult who has a well-reasoned explanation for wanting to spend more time with one parent than the other is more likely to convince a judge to create a plan that reflects those wishes than a teenager who openly declares that one parent lets them stay up late and play video games as much as they want.
Even those who have had a rocky relationship with their children can still seek shared custody and liberal parenting time. Learning more about the rules that govern New Jersey custody cases by seeking legal guidance can help parents plan a path forward toward healthy co-parenting arrangements.