Often times when The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (The Division) gets involved in parent's custodial arrangements for their children, both biological parents are not living together. They may be separated, divorced or have never resided together. In these situations, the custodial parent is often times accused by the Division of wrongdoing and the Division takes custody away from the custodial parent.
Placement With The Other Parent
Once the Division has custody, if one parent is deemed unfit to have custody of the minor by the Court and the other parent is deemed appropriate, The Division will place the child with the appropriate parent. The new custodial parent has to understand that this placement is temporary and neither the Court nor the Division has granted them the right be the residential caregiver for their child forever. All determinations about custody of the minor are going to be addressed in this litigation. Technically, the Division must work to reunify the child with the parent from whom the child was removed, but sometimes this is not a realistic possibility.
Interim Child Support
Often times in these situations, the parent who is not residing with the child has been paying child support to the parent who lives with the child. A common scenario for litigation with the Division involves the parent who has been granted custody seeking to impose new child support on the parent from whom the child was removed. The new custodial parent must understand that they are not entitled to child support yet because the court has not determined that the change in placement is final. But, the new custodial parent should file a motion with the court to have the child support that they are paying held in abeyance, or put on hold. This motion must be filed under the docket number that originally established the child support. Filing the motion, prevents the parent who has temporary custody from building up a child support obligation towards the parent from whom the child was removed.
Finishing The Division's Case
As stated before, The Division must provide services to allow the parent from whom the child was removed to fix any harms they may pose to the child. If the parent corrects all their mistakes, custody will revert back to the original parent. The court has to make this decision and it has almost no discretion to change custody in this type of litigation.
But, if the original parent does not get their act together, the court can order a change in custody. The original parent has a right to a full factual hearing on the matter, commonly known as a "G.M. Hearing." At the G.M. Hearing, the Division and the new custodial parent can present evidence as to why it is unsafe to return the child to the original parent. And the original custodial parent can present a defense to the change in custody. The judge will rule on this matter, potentially grant the new custodial parent custody and then the Division can close their case.
After The Division is Out of the Picture
This is where parents can get confused because the litigation that they have been participating in for many months is suddenly dismissed. If issues arise between the parents in the future without Division involvement, there is no open case that can resolve the issues. The new custodial parent should open a case to memorialize the custody that was granted to them in the Division's litigation.
If child support has been ordered or if the parties were previously married, a sufficient case is likely already active with the Court. If the parties were married, an FM docket exists; if they used the courts for visitation or child support before an FD case exists. The new custodial parent should apply to the court to have the Division's litigation incorporated into an order under the appropriate docket type which can be used in the future for potential disputes. This truly closes the matter and allows the new custodial parent all the relief they are entitled to under the law.
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