The Modification of Custody in NJ

Over half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce according to the American Bar Association. Many of these marriages involve minor children and child custody orders. Following the issuance of an initial divorce decree, oftentimes the need arises to change a child custody order. There are a number of fundamental factors that must be borne in mind when a decision is made to seek a modification of custody in NJ. 

There are two different standards come into play. These are the best interests of the minor child standard and the material change of circumstances standard.

Best Interests of the Minor Child Standard

An initial child custody order and any change to that order must be in the best interests of the minor child. While the custodial arrangement does have provisions that benefit the parents, the primary focus is always on the minor child.

A variety of factors are taken into consideration when it comes to ascertaining whether or not a child custody arrangements serves the best interests of the child. This includes a consideration of the overall physical and mental health of the parents and child, the residential situations of the parents and which parent historically has been the primary caretaker of the minor child.

Material Change of Circumstances Standard

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement to amend a child custody order, the parent desiring to make an alteration must demonstrate that a material change of circumstances has occurred. A material change of circumstances is something significant that directly impacts the best interests of the minor child.  

A variety of circumstantial changes can be considered material. For example, if the custodial parent develops a health condition that impacts his or her ability to care of the child, that can be considered to be a material change of circumstances supporting a modification of custody in NJ.

Agreement to Alter or Amend a Child Custody Order

The parents of a minor child have the ability to reach an agreement to alter or ament a child custody order. Indeed, courts favor parents negotiating a settlement of issues pertaining to their child in divorce and post-divorce matters.

Even when the parents reach an agreement changing a child custody order, a court still legally is obligated to review the proposed alteration to make sure that it is in the best interests of the minor child. Although not commonplace, there are instances in which a court will not approve an agreement between parents to change an existing child custody order.

The material change of circumstances standard usually is not relevant when there is an agreement between the parents to change an existing child custody order.

Summary

By considering the standards and practices outlined above, a parent is in a better position to proceed with altering an existing custodial order. Indeed, a parent is able to ascertain whether the foundational requirements of seeking a modification of custody exist in the first instance.

If you have any questions concerning the modification of custody in NJ, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free 30 minute in office consultation with a New Jersey custody lawyer.

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*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances