I HAVE CUSTODY! (You are probably wrong)

When people say custody (“I want custody”), they are usually not using the word “custody” correctly. They usually mean they are the primary caretaker of the children, or that they have the children most of the time.

Generally, people think when they get custody is: “I’m the one that gets to dictate everything because I have custody.” THAT IS NOT TRUE. That’s just a common misconception.

Here are some common custody terms that are important for you to know and differentiate when negotiating your custody agreement.

“Legal” Custody: Legal custody determines who will make major decisions affecting the child, including religious education, choice of schools, extracurricular activities, health care, and more. If you have joint legal custody and don’t allow the other parent to participate in the decision-making process, you could be in big trouble.

(Let’s also cover another common misconception: Unless the other parent is a hopeless alcoholic or drug addict or has a very serious mental health problem that does not allow him or her to make decisions, or they just agree to it, the parties are likely going to be granted joint legal custody. Neither party is going to have sole legal custody).

Physical Custody: Most people understand that physical custody has to do with where the child will live. If one parent is granted “sole” physical custody, the child will reside exclusively with that parent. As another example, if the parents are granted joint physical custody, the child typically will move back and forth between their residences.

So “joint” custody generally involves a sharing of parental responsibility for the child. Both parents are actively involved in the child’s upbringing.

Custody has nothing to do with parenting time.

Parenting time is defined as who’s on duty. Are you on duty? or is it your ex-spouse?

Everybody wants time. Some people fight over particular days of the week other want holiday priorities. However, parenting time is not the most important thing in a custody case.

Parenting time belongs to the kids, not to the parents. The purpose of parenting time should be to allow the child to strengthen and develop the bond with the parent through interaction, presence and care. A parenting plan is about much more than who gets every Tuesday or how the parenting time is divided up. When you’re fixated on time, you lose sight of the overall best interests of the kids.

The convenience of the child and the comfort of the child and the child’s activities should be priority when coming up with a workable and amicable parenting plan.

Through mediation we can help you create a great Custody Agreement.

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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