3 Steps to Settling Child Custody in New Jersey

In most situations, settling is the optimal way to get a custody order. It keeps parenting decisions in parents' hands and resolves the case quickly.

When parents settle custody, they develop an agreement together and file it with the court. (Parents settling divorce along with custody follow a slightly different process).

Note that cases that have Child Protective Services or a similar agency involved cannot settle.

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An alternative dispute resolution method like mediation, which is usually mandatory for parents who can't agree on their own, can help you reach an understanding. You can also discuss settlement at court conferences.

Once parents have negotiated successfully, they follow the steps below, with minor variation by county.

An attorney or legal services office can guide you through the process and ensure your documents cover all the bases.

Step 1: Draft your parenting plan

Draft a parenting plan that lays out the terms of your agreement. New Jersey does not have a standard template, so you can use any format, such as the Custody X Change parenting plan template.

Once both parents sign the plan in front of a notary, make three copies.

Step 2: Open a case

If you haven't already, open a case.

Attorneys recommend the defending parent respond to the complaint. This protects the defendant's right to contest if the plaintiff changes any terms.

Step 3: File your parenting plan

Take your plan and one copy to the Family Division of the Superior Court where you opened your case. The court clerk will forward it to the judge for review.

The judge will more than likely approve your agreement. You'll receive a copy of the signed final order in the mail or via email.

After you've settled

The custody journey continues after you receive a final order. Now your responsibilities include:

To do all of this and more, use Custody X Change.

The online app's customizable calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, expense tracker and parenting plan template will make life after settlement as straightforward as they made settlement itself.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Explore examples of common schedules


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