Learning how to file for child custody in New Jersey can feel overwhelming. You’re not alone, and at Graziano & Flynn, we understand the emotional toll fighting for child custody can take on a family.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps for filing for custody, so you’re empowered with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your family’s future.
Whether your case is amicable or contentious, the family law attorneys at Graziano & Flynn can help. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.
General Steps for Filing for Child Custody in New Jersey
Filing for child custody looks different from state to state, which is why we’ve outlined the steps you’ll need to take to file in New Jersey. From what paperwork to file to what information you need to provide, and finally, when you will get a decision, we’ve got you covered.
Determine How to File
In New Jersey, an action for child custody begins by submitting a motion for custody to the court. Your child’s primary location is where you should file the paperwork. So, for example, if you live with your child in Hackensack, you’ll file in Hackensack. Or, if you live in Ridgewood and your child lives primarily in Cherry Hill, you’ll file in Cherry Hill.
Fill Out Appropriate NJ Paperwork
To file for custody, you must contact the court where the child resides. Each New Jersey Court has a Family Division that will provide the relevant forms you need to fill out and submit along with the accompanying fees. For additional information, the New Jersey Courts offer help on their website.
Open a Case
A case begins with the complaint, which is a legal document describing your intentions for filing. You’ll file your complaint with the court, including information about your child and yourself, why you’re filing, and a plan for how to raise the child moving forward.
That plan can include things like parenting time and visitation, child support, and the kind of custody arrangement you want, from joint custody to sole custody.
Filing for Child Custody Differs by County
Best practice is to contact the county where the child resides and familiarize yourself with the process and required forms. If you’re represented by an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney, they will know the process for each county and walk you through the steps, advocating for your and your child’s best interests.
Once a child custody case goes to court, it can take anywhere from three to nine months to reach a decision based on the court’s schedule and the complexity of your case.
Determining the Type of Custody
One of the factors you’ll need to consider before submitting your complaint to the court is which kind of custody arrangement you’re pursuing. There are two types of child custody in New Jersey:
- Legal Custody: Grants a parent the right to make decisions for the child around issues such as education and health.
- Physical Custody (Residential Custody): This determines where your child will reside and with whom.
You can apply for both legal and physical custody, or you can If you want to ensure that you have both legal and physical custody of your child, you’ll need to properly fill out the required forms. Hiring an experienced child custody lawyer can help make the filling process much easier.
How Much Does It Cost to File for Custody in NJ?
There are several fees associated with filing for custody in New Jersey. Non-dissolution cases occur when the case involves parents seeking child custody who are not married or other adults filing on behalf of minor children. Additionally, FD cases cover married couples who are separated where one parent is seeking custody or financial support.
The following includes fees and waivers for filing non-dissolution (FD) cases.
To file an FD case with a Verified Complaint (CN 11492) No fee
To request a modification to an FD case (CN 11487) $25
To file an FD case with a Verified Complaint (CN 11492) $ 6
*Note: You must pay the request for child support enforcement as a separate check or money order unless you are filing online. You can make all checks payable to: Treasurer, State of NJ.
Notice of appearance (if you have an attorney) $50
Substitution of attorney (if you get a different attorney) $35
Motion to reconsider the court’s decision $50
Additionally, you may be eligible for a fee waiver if your income and assets are low enough. You can learn more about New Jersey fees and waivers here.
Can You File for Custody Online?
Yes, you can file for custody online through New Jersey’s Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) platform. You will have to pay a $6 fee, and your forms can be uploaded on the JEDS website here. Be sure to include the correct address for the other parent on all necessary forms, as incorrect information can delay the process or have your case dismissed.
New Jersey Child Custody Modification
If you are unhappy with your child custody order or there’s been a significant change in circumstances, you can file a motion with the court to request a modification. New Jersey allows modification of child custody orders so long as it is in the best interest of the child.
Reasons for Custody Modification
In order to have a successful child custody modification, you will need to prove a significant change in circumstances. That could include any of the following:
- Sickness, where a parent becomes ill and needs different support.
- Child’s needs change in terms of education or health.
- Relocation, where one parent would like to or needs to move out of state.
- Job loss, where one parent’s financial situation changes due to a change in employment.
- Child endangerment, where one parent is a threat to the child’s well-being.
Filing for Emergency Child Custody in NJ
If your situation rises to such a level that immediate or irreparable harm may happen to your child, then we recommend filing an emergency child custody order with the court.
Grounds for emergency custody in New Jersey include, but are not limited to:
- Parent is arrested or in police custody.
- Parental kidnapping or threatening to do so.
- Negative change in the child’s living situation.
- Domestic violence, including physical or mental abuse.
The burden of proof is on the parent filing for emergency custody. What that means is that the filing parent will need evidence to prove that the child is in danger.
How a Child Custody Attorney Helps
Child custody is often one of the most fraught proceedings, especially when it goes to court. Given that custody over your child is at stake, hiring a successful family law attorney who understands New Jersey law and can deftly navigate your child custody matter makes all the difference.
A custody action involves filing paperwork, creating legal court documents, and knowing the deadlines and procedures of the court. When you hire Graziano & Flynn, you are arming yourself with the experience and skills to make this a smooth process. We have a long track record of protecting the rights of New Jersey parents and their children, and we’re here to help.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation so we can get to work on your case immediately.