How to Get Visitation Rights in New Jersey?
How to Get Visitation Rights in New Jersey?
Our previous blog examined the different types of custody (legal/physical) in New Jersey and the laws a court must consider when making custody and parenting time decisions. But how do you initiate a claim for visitation/parenting time in New Jersey? Is the process the same for married couples as it is for unmarried couples? What if I am married and separated from my spouse, and I want to establish a parenting time plan, but not ready for divorce? This blog will answer those questions.
Continue reading to learn about filing for custody in New Jersey and call an experienced Totowa, Wayne, West Milford, Woodland Park divorce lawyer at (973) 737-1637 with any questions or to help with your New Jersey family matter.
What is the difference between dissolution cases and non-dissolution cases?
To begin with, family courts in New Jersey consider parenting time/visitation applications in both dissolution and non-dissolution cases. Dissolution cases are divorces. The parties wish to dissolve their marriage and ask the Court to decide custody, parenting time, support, equitable distribution, etc. as part of their divorce petition. Non-dissolution cases entail matters where the parents are unmarried, the parties are married but do not want to file for divorce, or grandparents/siblings seek to establish a visitation schedule.
An experienced Totowa, Wayne, West Milford, Woodland Park divorce lawyer will draft the appropriate forms and file the case for you. Contact Maria A. Giammona, Esq. at (973) 737-1637 with any questions or to help with your New Jersey family matter.
If you wish to proceed on your own (pro se), you will first have to determine whether you should be filing for parenting time in non-dissolution court or divorce court. The process is different depending on the Court.
How do I open a parenting time/visitation rights case in New Jersey?
For a New Jersey court to consider your parenting time/visitation rights case, you must open a case with the Court. Attorneys refer to the process of opening a case with the Court as “filing for parenting time/visitation rights.”
How do I file for parenting time/visitation rights in divorce (dissolution) court?
If you are married, you have lived in New Jersey for at least one (1) year and have made the decision that you want to move forward with divorcing your spouse, you can file a Complaint for Divorce and ask for custody and parenting time. You can obtain copies of the forms necessary to file for divorce from the New Jersey Courts self-help center found on NJCourts.gov or by contacting the Superior Court Ombudsman.
In a divorce case, you will need to file the following forms:
- Complaint for Divorce: The document that indicates you are filing for divorce and asks for custody, parenting time, support, etc.
- Confidential Litigant Information Sheet
- Certification of Self-Represented Litigant and Dispute Resolution Alternatives
- Certification Regarding Redaction of Personal Identifiers
- Certification Verification and Non-collusion
- Certification of Insurance Coverage
For parties who have reached a written agreement, you must state in your Complaint for Divorce that you have reached a written agreement. Once your Complaint for Divorce is filed, and you serve the other party, you should file a copy of the written agreement with the Court.
Prior to filing the Complaint for Divorce, make sure you have signed the forms and remove any of the instruction sheets. Mail or hand deliver a copy of your Complaint for Divorce and additional forms to the dissolution unit. You will receive your documents from the Court with a docket number assigned to your case. At this juncture, it is your responsibility to serve the other party with the Complaint for Divorce. Service means you have provided the other party with a copy of the Divorce Complaint, so they are aware of the lawsuit. Service of the Complaint for Divorce can either be done via mail or personal service. If you mail a copy of the Complaint for Divorce, you should mail it via certified and regular mail to their last known address along with a form called “Acknowledgment of Service.” In a cover letter, ask the other party to sign the Acknowledgement of Service and mail it back to you. Once the Acknowledgment of Service is mailed back to you, you will need to file it with the court. If the other party does not send back the Acknowledgement of Service, you will need to arrange for personal service. This can be accomplished by contacting the Sheriff’s Office or hiring your own private process server.
The other party has thirty-five (35) days to file an Answer to the Complaint for Divorce, from the date they were served. The Court will require the parties to attend the Parent Education class. The parties do not attend together; but are separately scheduled to attend the class shortly after filing their Complaint or Answer. Thereafter, if the parties have not resolved custody or parenting time, they will be referred to custody and parenting time mediation. Ultimately, if the parties cannot come to an agreement on custody and parenting time, the issue will be decided by the Court.
How do I file for parenting time/visitation rights in dissolution court?
If you are unmarried or married, but not seeking a divorce, you can file a Verified Complaint to open your case for parenting time/visitation rights. Once again, you can obtain the Verified Complaint from the New Jersey Courts self-help center found on NJCourts.gov or by contacting the Superior Court Ombudsman. The New Jersey Courts have developed a packet that provides detailed instruction on filing a Verified Complaint in non-dissolution court as well as copies of fillable forms. The forms that will be required in your specific case depend on the facts of your case and the relief you are seeking from the Court. For example, if you are asking for child support along with a visitation schedule, you will need to file a Financial Statement for Summary Support Actions.
You should complete the Verified Complaint form in full and check the boxes for all the relief you are requesting from the Court, ex., custody, parenting time, child support, medical insurance coverage, etc. Just like parties seeking a divorce, you must state in your Verified Complaint that you have reached a written agreement and provide a copy to the Court after the case is opened.
Prior to filing the Verified Complaint, make sure you have signed the forms and remove any of the instruction sheets. Mail or hand deliver a copy of your Verified Complaint and additional forms to the non-dissolution unit.
In non-dissolution cases, the Court sends out copies of the forms to the other party and then sends scheduling notices advising you of the date your case will be heard. Therefore, you will not have any responsibility to serve the other party. The Court may refer you to parenting time mediation first, before making a decision on your application.
Passaic County Divorce Attorney
Maria A. Giammona Law has been providing caring and compassionate representation for family law matters in Totowa, Wayne, West Milford, Woodland Park and throughout Passaic County for over twenty years. We’ll patiently look at every aspect of your situation and help you determine the best strategy for your family. We invite you to call us at 973-737-1637 to schedule a free consultation.