Terminating Custody Jurisdiction in New Jersey

Once New Jersey has jurisdiction in a custody matter, which generally happens as a result of New Jersey Courts having made the initial determination of custody. After making that determination, New Jersey is considered to have exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, meaning that New Jersey and only New Jersey has the right to make custody determinations for that child or those children. How that continuing, exclusive jurisdiction ends depends on the specifics of the case, more specifically:

  • A New Jersey court determines that neither the child, the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent have significant connection with New Jersey and that substantial evidence is no longer available in New Jersey concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships, or

  • A New Jersey Court or the court of another state determines that neither the child, nor a parent, nor any person acting as a parent presently reside in New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-66; or

  • New Jersey is found to be an inconvenient forum, meaning that a New Jersey Court does have jurisdiction but declines to exercise that jurisdiction because the court of another state is more appropriate to exercise jurisdiction over a particular case considering relevant factors, including but not limited to:

    • Whether there has been domestic violence, which state it was in and could best protect the parties and child;
    • Amount of time the child has resided out of state;
    • Relative financial circumstances of the parties;
    • Any agreement between the parties about state jurisdiction;
    • Nature and location of evidence required to resolve the litigation including the child’s testimony;
    • The court’s ability of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and
    • The familiarity of each court with the facts and issue of the pending litigation. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-71a & b.

The case of Griffith v. Tressel interpreted the application of the cessation of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction by making abundantly clear that both the elements of no significant connection with New Jersey and no substantial evidence within New Jersey concerning the case would serve to divest New Jersey of custody jurisdiction. Griffith v. Tressel, 392 N.J. Super. 128, 142-3 (App. Div. 2007).

Though determination that New Jersey is an inconvenient forum can divest it of jurisdiction, the principle is separate and distinct from application of the significant connection and substantial evidence standards and is, rather determined based on the considerations set forth above. If the New Jersey court determines that it is an inconvenient forum, it stays the proceeding in New Jersey conditioned upon the action being promptly commenced in another, more appropriate state, but there must be a court of another state willing to take jurisdiction of the matter. N.J.S.A. 2A:34:71c.

What is important to remember is that the laws have been set up to prevent jurisdiction in custody matters in multiple states at the same time. This, in turn, avoids multiple custody orders from multiple jurisdictions on the same case. Therefore, to bring a custody action in a state other than New Jersey, it is always necessary to terminate New Jersey’s continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the case under the principles set forth above.

If you need to discuss terminating custody jurisdiction in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free consultation at 201-845-7400.

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