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~w, Independence • Integrity • Fairness • Quality Service

Administrative Office of the Courts

GLENN A. GRANT,J.A.D.
Acting Administrative Director of the Courts

www.njcourts.gov • Phone: 609-376-3000 • Fax: 609-376-3002

TO:
FROM: SUBJ: DATE:

Directive #12-19
[Supersedes Directive #01-02] [Questions or comments may be directed to (609) 815-2900, ext. 55350]

Assignment Judges Family Court Presiding Judges Trial Court Administrators Family Division Managers

Q /tJJI

Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D., Acting Administrative~

Family - Revised Standards for Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports

June 21, 2019

This directive supersedes Directive #01-02 and promulgates the Revised Standards for Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports as well as the report templates to be used by staff conducting these investigations. This material reflects current policies, procedures and forms to be used for custody and parenting time investigation reports, as approved by the Judicial Council.
The standards were developed to provide statewide uniformity and clarity as to: (1) the situations appropriate for ordering Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports; and, (2) the procedures for completing such reports. By selecting the appropriate report type, the court can obtain the information it needs to make wellinformed custody and parenting time determinations. These standards also will foster efficient use of court staff and time, as the intention is to encourage judges to order only the specific information needed to make a sound decision.
The standards emphasize the use of alternate or complementary dispute resolution as the initial "court event" for custody and parenting time disputes, whenever appropriate, as outlined in R. 1:40-5. The court rule mandates the use of complementary dispute resolution (CDR) for most custody parenting time matters. Accordingly, all counties should be providing CDR services for such matters as the first alternative to a court hearing. CDR services can include consent conferencing as well as formal mediation sessions. Selected cases may be excluded from the CDR
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex• PO Box 037 • Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0037

Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports Directive# 12-19 Page2

requirement by court rule, statute, or judicial determination. Pursuant to Rule 5:8-1, the parties shall not be required to participate in custody evaluations with any expert during the CDR process, but may agree to do so.

Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Report Standards:

I.

Rule 5:8-1:

Court Rule 5:8-1 designates the Family Division as the authorized entity to conduct custody and parenting time investigations. The court rule supports CDR initiatives for custody/parenting time matters (excluding where domestic violence is involved). When mediation fails, the court should be notified and made aware of any outstanding issues that require judicial intervention (i.e., court-ordered testing and evaluation of any kind). A case management conference will be subsequently scheduled where the court will review the case and determine if the case requires further evaluation and, if so, the type of investigative report the case will require for final disposition.

The rule also authorizes Family Division staff to conduct custody investigations at the discretion of the court. Such investigations should provide information for the court to make informed decisions regarding custody and shared parenting time between minor children and their parents when disputes arise. Requests for custody/parenting time investigations should be specific in nature and tailored to the immediate information needs of the court. Such requests should also be mindful of the qualifications of the personnel who will be completing the report. When the court requires assessments or investigations that address the psychological, psychiatric, or parental functioning capabilities of two parents, these assessments or investigations should be conducted only by qualified mental health professionals.

The safety of the child is the first and foremost consideration of the court. When Family Division staff become aware that DCP&P is currently involved with the family, or recently closed a case (within the previous six months), the judge should be notified so that the required steps can be taken to include DCP&P in the assessment of the family. When this occurs, the court should make efficient use of court staff and available resources by not duplicating DCP&P efforts. DCP&P has the ability to refer parties to any necessary mental health professionals and the judge can order DCP&P to submit any historical or current information that may assist the court in making a determination.

Conflicting information from the parties can make it difficult to make a determination in the best interest of the child regarding custody/shared parenting time. Custody/parenting time investigations can provide valuable ancillary information to the court for cases where the safety of the child is not in question.

Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports Directive# 12-19 Page3
II. Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports:
A. Choosing the Appropriate Report Type:
If the CDR process is unsuccessful, a judge may order certain reports and evaluations such as a home inspection or social investigation report in making a custody or parenting time determination.
Before requesting any new report, however, the court should first consider any existing report that may already have been prepared by outside agencies such as DCP&P, including psychological, psychiatric, and home investigation reports, if those existing reports can provide the court with the needed information and thereby avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.
The reports should provide the court with information concerning the statutory factors the court must consider in custody decisions affecting minor children, N.J.S.A. 9:2-4c, namely:
• The parties' ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to children.
• The parties' willingness to accept custody. • Any history of unwillingness to allow visitation not based upon
substantiated abuse. • The interaction and relationship of the child(ren) with the parties and
siblings. • The history of domestic violence, if any. • The safety of the child(ren). • The safety of either party from physical abuse by the other. • The preference of the child(ren) when of sufficient age and capacity to
reason and form an intelligent decision. • The needs of the child. • The stability of the home environment offered. • The quality and continuity of the child(ren)'s education. • The fitness of the parties. • The geographic proximity of the parties' homes. • The extent and quality of the time spent with the child(ren) prior to or
subsequent to the separation. • The parties employment responsibilities. • The age and number of children.

Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports Directive# 12-19 Page4
B. Types of Reports:
Type 1 Home Inspection Report
This is a very specific observation-driven and information-gathering report limited to shared parenting time issues and questions the court needs answered. This type of report should be ordered when the court needs a factual description of the home where the child will be visiting. This report should be limited to criminal record checks for both parties unless otherwise ordered by the court; a description of the home based on observations during a home visit by the Family Division staff, including child-appropriate safety precautions (e.g., smoke alarms, child safety locks, window guards, stair gates, etc.); number of household occupants and relationship to the child; animals present (if there is a health issue for the child); sleeping quarters for the child; and child care and transportation arrangements (if applicable). The report should be limited to observations and answering the specific questions the court has requested. This report can be a stand-alone report if physical location is the only issue that needs to be addressed in the case.
Type 2 Social Investigation Report
This report is reserved for cases with no recent history of DCP&P involvement. Any case with DCP&P involvement during the last six months should not be immediately referred for a new custody/parenting time Social Investigation. To avoid duplication of effort, the court should review the available DCP&P records and contact DCP&P staff if additional information is required and request their records for review. DCP&P collects extensive information on families and has the available resources that could not be duplicated without the court, or the parties, absorbing the cost. A social investigation is an intensive information gathering process. The report should be based on observations and collateral contacts for verification of information regarding the social situation of both parties seeking custody. The information provided should assist the court in determining the long-term best interest of the child(ren) in question. Conclusive evaluative judgments or recommendations pertaining to the psychological or emotional status and the parental functioning of the parties are to be made only by those licensed or certified professionals qualified to make such mental health judgments and recommendations (See Type 3 below). This may also be a stand-alone report if physical location has not been raised as an issue by the parties or by the court.
This type of report is appropriate when conflicting information is received by the court regarding the parents, but the psychological fitness of both parties is not in question. This report should include criminal record checks for both parties; previous court involvement; summary of background statements

Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports Directive# 12-19 Pages
given by plaintiff/defendants; time availability and financial status of both parties; collateral contacts from school (i.e., child study team, guidance counselor, attendance records, school report card, teacher); pediatrician's report; counseling reports of child, if appropriate and available; child care arrangements available to both parties; neighborhood safety issues; recreational outlets for children (appropriate toys or plans offered by both parties); home inspection, to include all aspects of safety and space as stated in the visitation report; and results of any drug and alcohol screening reports ordered by the court. In order to attain certain information regarding school or medical records, school and/or medical release forms (attachments) will need to be signed by the custodial parent or guardian.
Note: At the discretion of the court, a home inspection report may be waived as part of the social investigation if the issue of physical location has not been raised by the parties or if the court determines it is not an issue in the case.

Type 3

Psychological, Psychiatric, or Parental Functioning Assessments, or Mental Health Evaluations

These reports are ordered by the judge when necessary to make a custody/shared parenting time determination. Only licensed or certified mental health professionals should conduct such assessments, which should include definitive recommendations regarding the mental, emotional, or parental functioning status of the parties involved. Judges should order such reports only after mediation has failed and only if there is a clear indication that there are psychological or psychiatric issues that point to the necessity for such evaluations. An exception would be when a judge determines that mediation should not be conducted before such an evaluation is completed. Such reports should be ordered when the judge determines that a social investigation will not provide the information needed to make a custody or parenting time decision. These mental health determinations should be made only by licensed practitioners.

C. Confidentiality of Reports:
Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports generated by Family Division staff are confidential to the public but are not confidential to the parties involved in the case. See R. 1:38-3(d). Any and all parts of the report must be shared with all parties who are subjects of the report. The contents of the report and its preparer are subject to challenges and cross examination pursuant to current procedures, rules and case law.

Child Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Reports Directive # 12-19 Page6
D. Form of Order:
The Uniform Summary Support Order (USSO) (attached) should be used to order the specific type of Child Custody or Parenting Time Investigation Report needed in a particular case. The type of report requested should be specified in the free form section 23 of the order.
Editor's Note
2019 Update - This directive was amended and revised to: (a) add reference to the amended Rule 5:8-1; (b) update the language to reflect current procedure; (c) add the USSO as the form of order to be used when specific custody and parenting time investigative reports are ordered; and, (c) incorporate the standards into the directive rather than in an attachment. Additionally, forms were removed that were no longer relevant to the process. Lastly, the language regarding having staff interview children was removed from the current directive.
April 2, 2002 -- Originally issued by Robert D. Lipscher, Administrative Director
Attachments: Home Inspection Report (CN 12271) Custody Parenting Time Social Investigation Report (CN 12274) School Release Form (CN 12272) Medical Release Form (CN 12273) Uniform Summary Support Order (CN 10284)
cc. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner Steven D. Banville, Chief of Staff AOC Directors and Assistant Directors Clerks of Court Special Assistants to the Administrative Director Amelia Wachter-Smith, Chief Assistant Family Division Managers

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lndeptn-'.lnl Case Name(s): Docket Number(s): Party Visited: Address:

New Jersey Judiciary
Home Inspection Report

Date /Time

Telephone:

Names

and

Relationships

of

Persons

Presently .·

ResidinQ ..

in the ..

Home:

(Use

additional

shee, t

if

necessary.) .

Name

.. .· Relationship

..
..

Type of Neighborhood: D Urban
Length of Residency:

D Apt. Complex D Rent

D Rural
□ Own

Exterior Condition of Home/Apt:

D Other

Number of Rooms: Sleeping Arrangements:

Bedrooms:

Bath(s):

Adequate Cooking and Eating Facilities: □ Yes D No (if No, explain)

Adequate Facilities (bedrooms, bathrooms, living space) for Number of Persons in the Home?
□ Yes D No (if No, explain)

Basement: □ Yes □ No Backyard: □ Yes (if Yes, describe condition)

Garage: □ No

□ Yes

□ No

Form Promulgated by Directive #12-19 (06/2112019), CN: 12271

page 1 of 2

Home Inspection Report Appropriate HeaWentilation:

□ Yes

□ No

Adequate Water and Working Plumbing:

□ Yes

□ No

Smoke Detectors:

□ Yes

□ No

Window Guards (if appropriate):

□ Yes

□ No

Hazardous Items Appropriately Secured:

□ Yes

D No (if No, explain)

Adequate Furnishings:

□ Yes

□ No

Facilities in Good Working Condition?

□ Yes

□ No

Condition of Housekeeping in Relation to Safety of Child(ren)

Number & Types of Pets: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Additional Comments/Problem Areas:

Submitted By:
Signature Name &Title (typed or printed)
Form Promulgated by Directive #xx-18 (mm/dd/2018), CN: 12271

Date

page 2 of 2

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Case Name:
Date Ordered:
Judge:
Plaintiff's Attorney:
Attorney's Phone:
Child(ren)
Name

New Jersey Judiciary
Custody/Parenting Time Social Investigation Report
Docket Number: Court Date: Report Type: Defendant's Attorney: Attorney's Phone:

Date of Birth

Age Residence

Party Profile
Plaintiff Name(s):
Relationship to child: Date of Birth: Birth Place: Social Security Number: Address:
Phone: Number of People in Household: Description of Residence:

Defendant Name(s):
Relationship to child: Date of Birth: Birth Place: Social Security Number: Address:
Phone: Number of People in Household: Description of Residence:

Form Promulgated by Directive #12-19 (06/21/2019), CN: 12274

page 1 of 6

Party Profile - continued
Plaintiff Education:
Employer:
Additional Income: Number of Children Living at Residence: Health Status: Substance Abuse: Arrest History:

I
Defendant Education:
Employer:
Additional Income: Number of Children Living at Residence: Health Status: Substance Abuse: Arrest History:

Preface: (Brief Overview of Case and Case History)
1. Previous court actions/investigations on involved children and any decisions made. (If no decision yet, include last recommendation made.)
2. Description of family unit and children. 3. Brief description of reasons for family break-up. 4. Who is requesting custody/visitation, and reasons. (Briefly summarize.)

Form Promulgated by Directive #12-19 (06/21/2019), CN: 12274

page 2 of 6

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