Custody Terminology 101

Custody is one of the most misunderstood legal concepts. When a client
calls our office, we typically hear something about sole or full custody.
Thanks to the internet and TV shows, custody terms are usually used incorrectly.
We will try to give you the knowledge you need to speak about custody.

In New Jersey, there are two types of
: legal and residential custody. When you talk about custody, you have
to talk about these two types separately. Legal custody deals with decision
making on major issues. In essence, legal custody means that you have
the ability to make all major decisions regarding the child’s health,
education, and welfare. There is something of a debate on whether something
is a “major” decision, but typically parents share joint legal
custody, meaning they have to make major decisions together. It is very
rare to not have joint legal custody.

The other type of custody is residential custody. In simple terms, this
is who the children live with. The parent who has more than fifty percent
of the time with the children is known as the parent of primary residence.
If one parent has all of the overnight with the children, they are known
as the sole residential custodian. If the parents have exactly equal time
with the children, they have joint residential custody. The majority of
parents have an arrangement where one is the parent of primary residence
and one is the parent of alternate residence.

Compared to legal custody, the parent who has residential custody makes
all day-to-day decisions regarding the children. This means that the parent
who has residential custody decides what the children eat, when they go
to bed, what clothes they wear, and what their daily routine is when they
are with that parent.

Once we have determined the legal custodial arrangement, we must decide
what the residential custodial arrangement is going to be. The non-custodial
parent, also known as the parent of alternate residence, will receive
parenting time with the children. This can range from alternative weekends
to equal time.

Decisions regarding custody are very important and can have grave consequences
for your children. Understanding the options is the first steps to determining
what is in your children’s best interest. If you want to learn more,
at (732) 479-4711


About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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