When child custody issues need to be addressed by New Jersey Family Court, parents often have questions as to how to bring these issues before the Court. With limited exceptions, New Jersey Family Law practice and procedure is largely uniform throughout the State, however, when initiating a child custody action in Camden County, parents must understand what specific steps need to be taken to not only properly file for custody, but to make their Child Custody Complaint as strong as possible.
Where Will a Child Custody Case Take Place in Camden County?
Filing for child custody in Camden County can be complicated process, but with the necessary information, it is a manageable process. Camden County Superior Court (Chancery Division, Family Part) is the appropriate venue when the child resides in Camden County. The Court itself is located at the Camden County Hall of Justice,101 S. 5th Street, Camden, NJ 08103-4001. The Family Division offices are located on the first and second floors of the Hall of Justice. The main phone number to the Camden County Family Division is 856-379-2204.
The Camden County Hall of Justice is located at:
How Do I Know if Camden County Family Court is the Proper Jurisdiction for My Custody Case?
New Jersey Family Law bases jurisdiction in child custody cases on where the child's residence is located. Camden County has 37 municipalities, and unless there are extenuating circumstances, if the child or children involved in the custody case reside in any of the following towns, Camden County Family Court will be where the custody case should take place:
Audubon; Audubon Park; Barrington; Bellmawr; Berlin Borough; Brooklawn; Camden; Cherry Hill; Chesilhurst; Clementon; Collingswood; Gibbsboro; Gloucester City; Gloucester Township; Haddon Heights; Haddon Township; Haddonfield; Hi-Nella; Laurel Springs; Lawnside; Lindenwold; Magnolia; Merchantville; Mount Ephraim; Oaklyn; Pennsauken; Pine Hill; Pine Valley; Runnemede; Somerdale;Stratford; Tavistock; Voorhees; Waterford; Winslow; Woodlynne
If the child does not reside in Camden County, and instead resides in a different New Jersey county, the appropriate venue would be the New Jersey county where the child resides. If the child does reside in Camden County nor any other New Jersey county, but rather out of state, the custody action generally will have to be commenced in the applicable other state, depending on the circumstances of the case.
What is the First Step to File for Custody in Camden County?
The first step is that a Complaint for Child Custody must be drafted. The "Complaint" is the legal document that will initiate the Court proceedings once filed. At times, parties may overlook how critical the Complaint is in a child custody case in Camden County. The Complaint is what provides the Court, the Superior Court of New Jersey - Camden Vicinage in cases involving Camden County custody cases, with information regarding what custody concerns are at issue.
What Should I Include in the Child Custody Complaint in Camden County?
Parties should not overlook the critical purpose that the Complaint serves in Camden County. A well-drafted Complaint can "paint the picture" that the Plaintiff, the party who is filing the custody case, would like to present to the Court. A Complaint will be reviewed by the Family Court Judge before he or she even sees the parties to the custody dispute. Although a Judge has to rule in accordance with the evidence presented and the applicable law, and New Jersey Family Law provides the Defendant, also known as the opposing party, the opportunity to respond to the Plaintiff's Complaint, Judges are human, and will aguably be more receptive to a strong Complaint as opposed to one that is not presented as effectively. For that reason, a well-drafted Complaint can allow the Plaintiff to present a strong position from the start of their case.
Some Judges in Camden County Superior Court may overlook a "bare bones" Complaint, although this would be an ineffective strategy for the Plaintiff to take; especially when the opportunity exists for the Plaintiff to start strong. A "bare-bones" Complaint versus a well-drafted Complaint aside, all Judges in Camden County Family Court expect, at an absolute minimum, that a Complaint is drafted, filed, and served upon the Defendant in accordance with New Jersey Family Law. If such basic considerations are not properly attended to by the Plaintiff, and their attorney when represented, the Court may dismiss the custody case before the Plaintiff has the opportunity to be heard in Court. In addition, Camden County Superior Court can issue sanctions and other penalties against the Plaintiff is the Judge determines that the Plaintiff disregarded the Court's procedural rules in an effort to hinder the Defendant's opportunity to respond. Sanctions and other punitive measures are more likely to be imposed if the Plaintiff intentionally tried to obtain an advantage by circumventing Camden County Court Rules, as opposed to if the Plaintiff's actions or omissions was an oversight or an unintentional mistake.
Camden Superior Court Family Judges
Although it may not be regularly spoken, who decides a child custody case in Camden County Superior Court can be as important as the witnesses and evidence presented and the legal arguments submitted to the Court. At present, the list of Family Court Judges sitting in Camden County Superior Court is as follows:
- Justice Francine I. Axelrad
- Justice Angelo DiCamillo
- Justice Charles W. Dortch, Jr.
- Justice David M. Ragonese
- Justice Morris G. Smith
- Justice Donald J. Stein
What Information is Required in a Child Custody Complaint in Camden County?
The Child Custody Complaint itself, in Camden County or any New Jersey County for that matter, must contain specific information to be considered a proper Complaint that can be filed with Camden County Family Court. A properly-drafted Complaint will include a Caption at the top of the Complaint, followed by the Plaintiff's full legal name and the Defendant's full legal name. Although different variations are used in a less formal context, the proper name of the Court must be included in the Complaint. For child custody cases taking place in Camden County, the proper name to reference in the Complaint is “Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, County of Camden."
The Complaint should thereafter be followed by the Plaintiff's name, physical address, and the custody demands that require the Court's attention; for example, custody demands would include such issues as whether the Plaintiff seeks primary physical custody, joint legal custody, or sole physical custody. Because all New Jersey Family Courts, Camden County included, recognize physical and legal custody as two separate forms of child custody, the Plaintiff will need to specify both physical custody and legal custody intending to file for sole physical and legal custody of your child.
The Complaint also requires specific information about the child or children involved in the custody case. Specifically, the child's full name, Social Security number, date of birth, age, and present physical address must be listed under the Plaintiff's demand(s) for custody. If more than one child is involved in the custody case, the above-referenced information should be listed for each minor child for whom the Plaintiff is seeking custody. Adult children, when applicable, must also be listed on the Child Custody Complaint in Camden County. Regarding adult children, the adult child's full name, date of birth, and age must be provided.
Lastly, the Complaint should be signed and dated at the bottom. A copy of the signed Complaint should be made as standard practice for the Plaintiff's records.
How Do I File the Custody Complaint at Camden County Family Court?
To initiate the custody case, the Complaint must be filed with the Camden County Family Court clerk. Child Custody Complaints are accepted at Camden County Family Court Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM. The filing fee for a child custody case is $250.00, which must be paid at the time of filing by check, money order, credit card, or case. When a Complaint is accepted by the Camden County Family Court clerk, the custody case will be assigned a "docket number" which will be used by the Court for tracking purposes during the course of the case.
After the Child Custody Complaint is accepted and filed, the Plaintiff must serve the Defendant with the Complaint. It is good practice for the Plaintiff, or the Plaintiff's attorney when represented by counsel, to draft a letter explaining to the Defendant that the Plaintiff has filed for custody and that a copy of the filed Complaint is attached for the Defendant's review. The copy of the filed Complaint and the letter to the Defendant should be attached and placed in an envelope.
The Plaintiff must "serve" the Defendant with the Complaint and Notice via "hand-delivery;" hand-delivery can be done either by courier or certified mail with return receipt. The Plaintiff can also request that a disinterested party hand-deliver the Complaint and Notice to the Defendant, but the Plaintiff cannot serve the Notice him or herself. If the Complaint and Notice are served upon the Defendant via certified mail with return receipt request, the Plaintiff should retain the return receipt as proof that delivery was made to the Defendant. If the Plaintiff arranged for a disinterested party deliver the Complaint and Notice on his or her behalf, the Plaintiff must have the disinterested party sign a statement declaring the date and time service upon the Defendant was made.
Camden County Child Custody Attorney | Camden Family Law Attorney
The stakes can be high when Camden County Family Court decides the custody of a child or children. The first step in any custody case in Camden is not only properly filing for custody, but making your position as strong as possible when initiating a custody action. A New Jersey attorney experienced with Camden County Family Court practice and procedure can not only help you draft the best possible Complaint, but can provide you with the advice and advocacy needed to get your position heard and recognized. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento to learn how he can help with your Camden County custody case.