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Legal Information: New Jersey


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January 8, 2024

Who can seek custody?

A judge will decide who should have custody based on what s/he thinks is in the best interest of the child. There is a very strong presumption that parents should share the rights and responsibilities to a child.1 However, under the following circumstances, any person interested in the welfare of the child can file for custody:

  1. the parent(s) or other person having the actual care and custody of a minor child:
    • are “grossly immoral or unfit” to manage the child’s care and education;
    • will neglect to properly protect, maintain, and educate the child;
    • have vicious, careless, or morally-unfit habits that will put the child in danger or make the child “likely to become a public charge,” which means that the child will rely on public benefits or enter the foster care system; or
    • are dead or cannot be found; and
  2. there is no other person, legal guardian or agency exercising custody over such child;2

The petition for custody by a non-parent would be filed in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part in the county where the child lives.3

1 N.J. Stat. § 9:2-4
2 N.J. Stat. § 9:2-9
3 N.J. Stat. §§ 9:2-9; 9:2-10