If a divorced couple's initial child custody agreement doesn't work out the way they'd hoped it would, it is possible to change that child custody agreement through court action. There are a few ways to make changes to existing custody agreements in New Jersey.
Modifying Child Custody in New Jersey
One of the easiest and least stressful ways to change custody is for the parents to work together to create a new custody arrangement and put it in writing. The agreement will then need to be signed by both parents and submitted to the court for approval from the judge. Generally, child custody agreements like this are approved unless it would not be in the children's best interests.
However, if one parent doesn't agree to the changes, then a modification of custody or parenting time will need to be filed. To start the process of modifying custody, your child custody attorney will need to submit a motion (or a written request) to the court. The court will hold a hearing to determine whether the modification is warranted.
For New Jersey courts to approve a child custody modification request, there must be a proven substantial change in circumstances. The law does not state what constitutes a substantial change, but according to the New Jersey Supreme Court case, Sheehan v. Sheehan, you should establish the following:
- What is the current custody schedule?
- What circumstances have changed since the initial order?
- What adverse effects does the existing and proposed new arrangement have on the child's best interests?
Generally, the following would be an example of a substantial change in circumstances:
- One or both parents have moved and live a substantial distance apart, thus making it difficult or impossible to follow the custody schedule
- The child's educational progress is failing
- The custodial parent is living with someone new (particularly when there is evidence to show that individual has a negative impact on the child)
- One parent is refusing to comply with the current parenting time order
- The child is beginning school, and the order was created when the child was younger than school age
- There is evidence that one parent is abusing drugs or alcohol while caring for the child
- There have been domestic abuse charges filed against one parent or another member in the family home where the child resides
- The child has stated a preference for custody that is different from the current order
There are several other changes in circumstances not previously mentioned that could warrant a change in custody. Additionally, the reasons cited above are not always guaranteed to be accepted by the court. The court will have to look extensively at each case and the unique details to determine whether or not to accept the modification.
Modifying your current custody order can be a challenging matter. The Somerset County child custody modification attorneys at DeTommaso Law Group, LLC are here to assist those seeking a child custody modification. Call our team today at (908) 274-3028 to set up a consultation.