We often hear people say they want ‘full custody.” But what does that really mean? New Jersey has two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody is the legal right of both parents to make larger decisions for the child in regards to the child’s overall health, welfare and education. Physical custody is where the child resides and spends his or her time.

If the parents have “joint” or “shared” legal custody, then any decisions regarding the child’s health, welfare and education must be made together.

For instance, what doctors to use, when to attend therapy, whether to be vaccinated, etc. If the parents have “joint” or “shared” physical custody, one parent is usually the Parent of Primary Residence (where the child spends most of his time) and the other parent is the Parent of Alternate Residence (where the child spends the remainder of his time). (This is also relevant for child support purposes since the “PPR” is typically the one who receives child support, and the “PAR” is the one who pays child support). The parent who has the child at any given time for his/her parenting time has physical custody for purposes of making the day-to-day decisions for the child. For example, when they go to bed, when they brush their teeth, when they do their homework, what they eat for dinner, etc.

“Sole” legal and/or physical custody is when only one parent has decision making power or only one parent spends time with the child.

One of the issues many parents confront is where the child will attend school. Most New Jersey public schools take the position that the child attends school in the district where the Parent of Primary Residence is domiciled. If the parents have 50/50 custody with no Parent of Primary Residence, then the child may attend school in either district. To avoid any issues regarding schooling, many parents insert a clause into their Marital Settlement Agreement that states one parent will be the Parent of Primary Residence “for school purposes only.” This usually suffices for the school district as the Marital Settlement Agreement is incorporated into the Judgment of Divorce and the Judgment of Divorce is signed by a Judge.

Whatever custody arrangement parents make, the flexibility of mediation allows the parties to come up with a custody agreement that is best for the family. Here at Netsquire, we work with you to determine what is best for your children. To schedule a client vision meeting please reach out to us. You can also schedule a Client Vision Meeting

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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