How to File for Sole Custody & Supervised Visitation in New Jersey

By Brenna Davis

In New Jersey, there is a strong presumption in favor of preserving the family unit and ensuring children have ample time with each parent. When time with a parent places a child in danger, however, the courts may grant supervised visitation on a permanent or temporary basis. Cases involving supervised visitation can quickly grow contentious and may involve complex legal issues. A parent who is seeking modification of an existing custody has the burden of proving to the court why a change in the order is necessary.

Understanding Sole Custody

Custody orders typically address two kinds of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody means having the right to make decisions concerning the child's upbringing, such as education, medical care and religion. Joint legal custody means both parents must share in these decisions. Physical custody governs the child's primary place of residence. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent and visits the other. When a parent is granted sole custody, it means she has both legal and physical custody of the child. New Jersey has a strong bias in favor of preserving the family unit and will only grant sole custody when it is in the child's best interests. This might occur when one parent is abusive, neglectful or suffers from an untreated mental illness. Most parents seeking supervised visitation seek sole custody.

Understanding Supervised Visitation

Even when one parent has serious deficiencies in his parenting skills, the state of New Jersey prioritizes the parent-child relationship. Judges may order supervised visitation both to preserve the parent-child relationship and to ensure the child is safe. Frequently, the visitation is supervised by a court-appointed volunteer, but a family member or friend may also be the visitation supervisor. Supervised visitation is only granted when the non-custodial parent may pose a danger to the child either through neglect, abuse or extremely reckless decision-making. Supervised visitation orders are often issued on a temporary basis. They may last for a set period of time or be re-evaluated after the parent completes specific goals -- such as therapy or anger management -- outlined by the judge who issued the order.

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Filing for Custody

If a custody order is already in place, you must file a motion for modification of child custody. If you are divorcing, you must complete a divorce packet for parents with children. New Jersey law requires that parents seeking custody attach a parenting plan to motions for custody. You can obtain the necessary paperwork from the clerk of court in the superior court of the county that granted the divorce or issued the original custody order. After you complete the motion, return it to the clerk and pay the filing fee. You must serve the other parent with the paperwork. In many counties, you can do this by completing a service form and returning it to the clerk, who will have the sheriff serve the other parent. If the clerk does not have a form for service, you must serve the paperwork yourself, either by hiring a process server or mailing it to the other parent's address via certified mail, return receipt requested.

Hearing and Evidence

New Jersey courts encourage parents to settle custody disputes on their own. Frequently, judges order parents to meet with mediators or parenting coordinators before the case goes to trial. They may also appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child's best interests. When your case does go to trial, you must present specific evidence indicating it is in your child's best interests to live with you and only have supervised visitation with the other parent. Bring documentation of abuse, poor decision-making and other behaviors that put your child in danger. If others have witnessed any problematic behavior from the other parent, you can call that parent as a witness as well.

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How to File for Custody of a Minor in Mobile, Alabama


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How to Get Full Custody in the State of Alabama

A fight over child custody is often immensely stressful for both parents and children. Alabama recognizes two types of custody -- legal and physical. Legal custody refers to which parent has decision-making responsibilities for the child, while physical custody refers to where the child lives. In the state of Alabama, in an effort to foster ongoing contact between parent and child, there is a presumption in favor of joint legal and physical custody. Joint custody does not, however, necessarily mean that both parents have the same amount of time with the child. Before seeking full custody of your child, think about whether this is truly in your child's best interests.

New York State Supervised Visitation Laws

Supervised visits in New York are ordered by a county Family Court or Supreme Court when a visit with a non-custodial parent -- the parent who doesn't have custody -- could be physically or psychologically dangerous for the child. The number of requests for supervised visits has risen greatly in recent years, as more and more cases of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect flood the court system. If you worry that your child is at risk during visits with his non-custodial parent, you can petition the court for an order of custody and visitation. The court has the authority to order supervised visitation if it approves the petition.

Can You Write a Letter to the Court Requesting a Visitation Modification in Indiana?

Indiana has instituted very specific child custody laws and guidelines to help shield children from parental conflict. Consequently, parents must follow certain procedures to modify a visitation schedule and merely writing to the court is not sufficient. You and your ex may adopt any visitation schedule you both agree to, but to have the schedule legally recognized and enforceable, the judge must issue a new visitation order.

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