In New Jersey, a child custody case does not always necessarily mean that a divorce is taking place. Child custody is an issue that may need to be resolved if the parents are unmarried or if another family member wants custody or visitation rights.
A domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two people that provides some, but not all, of the same benefits as a marriage. Domestic partnerships became an option for same-sex and opposite-sex couples after the Domestic Partnership Act was passed by the New Jersey legislature in 2004. When the Civil Union Act of 2007 was passed, domestic partnerships in that state were limited to couples at or over the age of 62.
In March 2012, 15.3 million heterosexual adults were living with a partner to whom they were not married. However, couples who are not married may still benefit from having a written agreement known as a no-nup that outlines what happens if one person falls ill or dies. It may also be a good idea to include in the agreement how household bills are split or how property will be split if the couple decides to end their relationship.
Although divorce is the most common scenario in which visitation and child custody rights are sought in New Jersey courts, there are also many situations in which these rights don't relate to the end of a marriage. For example, unmarried couples might seek custody and visitation agreements through the court system. Third parties, often the relatives of the children involved in a custody action, could act on behalf of a child who is suffering from parental neglect or other negative living situations. All states have some form of visitation laws to protect the rights of grandparents as well, which could result in legal action in some cases.