With so many marriages ending in divorce today, the impact these cases have on the children cannot be ignored. One of the most complex and often stressful events during any separation is the question of child custody. While each year hundreds of thousands of Americans filing for divorce experience a custody battle, few possess the strong legal knowledge needed to navigate through this event. Marcia Silva, Esq. is an experienced attorney and former New Jersey Superior Court judge who served as a frequent panelist for the State Bar Association regarding child custody, support, and other family law issues. With more than twenty years of experience, Marcia Silva, Esq. hopes to share her knowledge and spread awareness regarding the different types of child custody to help families through this challenging transition.
Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with. A parent who is granted physical custody is often referred to as a custodial parent. If a parent is granted one more overnight per year than the other, he or she is referred to as the Parent of Primary Residence or “PPR,” an important distinction for child support calculations. The parent who is not the PPR is known as the Parent of Alternate Residence or “PAR.” Parties may have any custody arrangement that works for them, including alternating weeks, a 2-3-2 schedule, a more “traditional” alternating weekend parenting time with the PAR, or any combination of these. Courts will generally enforce agreements reached by the parties as it relates to custody.
A parent with legal custody will be given the right to decide certain aspects of their child’s life, often regarding religion, schooling, medical treatments, sports activities, and social events. Legal custody is often independent of physical custody. If one parent is a custodial parent, they may not be given full decision-making authority. If only one parent has legal custody of their child, they will not need to receive approval from the co-parent on decisions involving the child. This occurs when a parent is deemed unfit to care for their child, often due to previous legal charges, abuse, neglect, or addiction to illicit substances or alcohol.