New Jersey Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
In New Jersey, there are two aspects of custody: legal custody and physical custody. The parent with legal custody is responsible for making important decisions concerning the child, such as where the child should go to school and what kind of medical care the child should get. The parent with physical custody is the parent the child lives with most of the time. This parent is called the custodial parent and the other parent is called the non-custodial parent. Parents can also share physical and/or legal custody jointly. Custody decisions are based on the child’s best interests.
The non-custodial parent will almost always have visits or parenting time with the child. Visits will only be restricted if the court believes that the non-custodial parent will harm the child. In that case, the court may order that the non-custodial parent have only supervised visitation with the children. Decisions about visitation are based on what is best for the child and can be changed, if circumstances demonstrably change.
Determining Custody in Maryland
A legal presumption is a rule of law that requires a court to treat something as true until and unless there is sufficient evidence to disprove the truth of the presumed fact. To address parent-child relationships, the New Jersey Legislature has adopted a law called the Uniform Parentage Act. It describes the situations when a court must presume a parent-child relationship, even without DNA or other evidence of a biological relationship.
The most common presumption of parentage is that the husband of the woman who gives birth to a child is presumed to be the biological father of the child.
If a married (or recently divorced) woman gives birth to a child that both she and her husband know to be fathered by another man, the husband and the biological father can each sign documents and file them with the registrar of vital statistics.
If the mother marries a man after a child is born, a presumption of paternity will arise only if the husband of the mother also does one of the following:
- He acknowledges his paternity of the child in a form filed with the registrar of vital statistics, called a Certificate of Parentage;
- He tries to have his name placed on the child’s birth certificate as the child’s father;
- He openly tells others that the child is his biological child; or
- He either is ordered by a court order or voluntarily agrees to pay child support for the child.
If a man has not been married to the mother of a child, he will be presumed to be the father of a child if, before the child turns 18, he:
- Tells others that this is his child, and either
- The child lives in the man’s home; or
- The man provides financial support (child support) for the child.
A man can also show paternity by completing a form called a Certificate of Parentage (COP) and filing it with the registrar of vital statistics. Hospitals generally provide new parents with the chance to complete the COP at the hospital shortly after the birth.
New Jersey Artificial Insemination Statute
New Jersey has an Artificial Insemination Statute, which states that if a medical doctor assists a married woman to become pregnant, with the consent of her husband, in using sperm that is donated by a man other than her husband, then the husband is treated by the law as the biological father of the child.
New Jersey Civil Union Statute
New Jersey has a Civil Union Statute that applies to same-sex couples. It states that, “civil union couples shall have all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law as those granted to spouses in a marriage.” The statute specifically addresses parent-child relationships within a civil union.
“The rights of civil union couples with respect to a child of whom either becomes the parent during the term of the civil union, shall be the same as those of a married couple with respect to a child of whom either spouse or partner in a civil union couple becomes the parent during the marriage.” N.J.S.A. 37:1-31(e).
Modification of Custody Orders
Decisions involving custody can be changed by the court if the parties’ circumstances change. To change a custody or visitation order that is already in place, you need to file for a modification of the custody order in court. Generally, for the court to grant you a change in custody or visitation you will have to demonstrate that the parties’ situation has changed in order for the court to consider the motion. If circumstances have changed, the court will need to decide what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests at this point in time.
Registration of Out of State Custody Orders
After a divorce adjudged in any other State or country, if minor children of the marriage are inhabitants of New Jersey, in any action brought by either parent or by a guardian ad litem on behalf of the children, the New Jersey court shall direct, may make such judgment concerning their care, custody, education and maintenance as if the divorce had been obtained in New Jersey.
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines in New Jersey and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
By: Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
800 787 4981