In a perfect world, when two people with children get divorced they would be able to make joint decisions about the welfare of their kids. They are able to discuss options calmly and figure out, without court intervention, what living arrangements will be in their family’s best interests.
Unfortunately, if this world was perfect, there wouldn’t be divorce at all. And, the issue of child custody, who lives with whom and who pays for what, wouldn’t even be things to think about.
However, since we live in the real world, which is certainly far from perfect, the best we can hope for is to make informed decisions — especially regarding our most precious concerns. Of course, if you aren’t able to make decisions together, a New Jersey family court judge will decide the custody and living arrangements that are, as the law dictates, “in the best interest of the child.”
There are two types of issues to consider when deciding on child custody. You must assign legal and physical custody. Oftentimes, divorcing parents opt for joint legal custody but choose one parent to be the physical custodian of the child. This can be because one parent is moving a distance from the child’s school, friends or other family members. It can also be because the parents want to avoid confusion about “where” the child lives.
The problem is that, all too often, people make decisions about physical custody with an eye on reducing disruption for the children. The divorce itself will bring about many changes and it’s not unusual to make a decision to keep the children in their current home when possible. It may even seem like a no brainer. This is about an “address,” right?
Yes, physical custody refers to specifically where a child will be living most of the time. It’s the address that will be given to schools. However, failing to give serious consideration to which parent will get physical custody of the children can come back to bite you.
It’s critically important to talk with a savvy divorce lawyer about which parent should be the physical custodian. Even if things are amicable now, the tide may change later. If parent with physical custody decides to move, it may be difficult to prevent the children from being moved — regardless of whether or not you have joint legal custody.
the bottom line is this: the decisions you make during your divorce process will be in place for a very long time. You will have to go back to court to try to modify them. New Jersey family court judges don’t make changes to custody and support agreements without considerable negotiation. Even then, you may not get the decision you want from a judge.
It’s better to look into the future and consider all your options to protect your legal rights and interests. After all, these are your children, too. All decisions regarding their legal welfare should be discussed with a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorney who has enough experience to bring a sense of foresight to the process.
Contact Ronald Graziano at Graziano & Flynn in Cherry Hill, NJ, for a compassionate, informed view of your child custody options. He will guide you through the divorce process every step of the way as he has done successfully for countless others in South Jersey for over 40 years.