New Jersey Law for Unwed Couples
The non-dissolution docket provides relief to parents who never married but have children in common. This docket differs tremendously from New Jersey’s divorce docket. Our lawyers are able to assist you with navigating through complex child custody and child support matters that may arise as a result of never marrying your child’s other parent.
While the legal principles governing custody and parenting time are the same, the process in which a Court hears divorce or non-dissolution matters is night and day. New Jersey custody and parenting time disputes are controlled by N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 which provides the Court with several factors to consider when making a determination.
However, when you file for divorce, custody and parenting time can be decided by the parties in mediation or by the Court following a trial or plenary hearing. Yet, when you adjudicate custody and parenting time on the non-dissolution docket, the proceedings are “summary” in nature, meaning that the judge is in a position to make a determination at any hearing at any time, whether or not there has been any discovery or experts involved.
In fact, in summary proceedings there is no right to discovery at all and whether to allow discovery is at the discretion of the Court. While mediation may be offered in a non-dissolution matter, in most circumstances it is not and if the parents are unaware that they may request same, they might be losing out on an exceedingly helpful tool for resolving disputes. Thus, while relying on the same statutory authority, a Court can reach very different results depending on the marital status of a child’s parents.
Moreover, when you file a motion with the Court seeking to define parenting time or custody, the time frame in which you can respond and the matter is calendared with the Court is substantially shorter than if the matter was brought on the dissolution docket. When proceeding with a divorce, the Court will order a discovery schedule, and allow time for depositions and obtaining potential custody experts.
As noted above, when dealing with unwed parents, Courts normally forego the formalities of discovery, leaving parents limited time to gather their proofs. Many times, the Court may tell you that there is no need to respond to the motion at all, as you can argue the motion on the return date.
Whereas, if you were to fail to respond in a dissolution matter, the Court would most likely provide an adverse written decision against you, deeming the motion unopposed. Another significant difference between dissolution and non-dissolution matters is the potential effect of a Temporary Restraining Order.
During the pendency of a divorce, the judge hearing your matter can decide the custody and parenting schedule in light of the restraints, providing time with the child for both parents. Unfortunately, when the parents are unwed, the restraining order can be used as a tool to gain custody, with the other parent having to wait several weeks for the matter to be heard before seeing their child.
Our lawyers are able to assist unwed parents with the intricacies involved with custody and parenting time matters, bringing a semblance of stability during what can be a tumultuous and confusing time.
Contact Our New Jersey Child Custody Attorneys
The New Jersey family law attorneys at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC are here to help if you, or someone important to you, has questions about children, joint custody, sole custody or parenting time. Call us at 201-488-1161.