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Neglect as Grounds for Changing Child Custody

Once child custody is established in divorce proceedings, circumstances may change that necessitate a change in an existing custody order. Custody is not something that can be changed on a whim in the state of New Jersey. Rather, and as will be discussed further in a moment, there needs to be a significant, substantial, or material reason for an alteration in an existing custody order. Neglect is a basis up which changing child custody can be sought by a parent.

Changing Child Custody and the Best Interests of a Child

New Jersey utilized what legally is known as the best interests of a child standard when it comes to establishing and modifying child custody. The best interests of the child standard necessitates a demonstration that a particular custodial and parenting time arrangement does best serve the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of a child.

When a desire to change custody exists, a demonstration must be made that the existing arrangement no longer meets the best interests of a child. A material change must be demonstrated that supports the contention that the existing custody order no longer meets the best interests of a child.

Changing Residential Custody Due to Neglect

Neglect of a child by a custodial parent is a prime example of a sufficient grounds upon which to obtain a change in custody. The custodial parent is entitled to a hearing to present evidence to counter an allegation of neglect. Moreover, it is possible that the court will order a custody evaluation as part of making a decision regarding altering an existing custody order.

If the court did not previously issue an emergency order regarding custody (which is discussed more fully in a moment), a court very well may issue a temporary change of custody order until a hearing can be held on the motion to amend the existing order.

Legal Custody and Neglect

In addition to altering physical custody of a child, or parenting time (depending on which parent is alleged to have been neglectful), the court can also alter an existing legal custody order. A court might conclude that the parent’s neglect of the child, coupled with other facts and circumstances in the case, indicate a child’s best interests are best served by changing legal custody.

Altering Parenting Time Because of Neglect

The possibility also exists that a noncustodial parent can be guilty of neglect. A parent can neglect a child during parenting time in the same manner a custodial parent can engage in this type of misfeasance.

If an allegation of parental neglect perpetrated by a noncustodial parent during parenting time is made, a court may suspend parenting time on a temporary basis without an immediate hearing. If the court takes this approach, a hearing on the request to alter a parenting time order typically is conducted in a relatively short period of time.

Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the contention involving neglect, a court may indefinitely suspend parenting time. In the alternative, the court might order supervised parenting time. It is also likely that the court will order the noncustodial parent to undertake some sort of programming, including parenting classes or therapy, before parenting time is restored.

Emergency Change of Child Custody

A situation may exist in which an emergency change of child custody is necessary due to neglect or abuse. New Jersey courts have the capacity to take prompt emergency action in regard to child custody when the need for such action is demonstrated. A parent cannot simply ignore a standing order of a court and make alterations to a legal custody order.

What a parent can do is take action to ensure that a neglected child is placed promptly in a safe situation and location. Simultaneously with ensuring the child is safe, a parent needs to petition the court via an appropriate motion seeking an immediate change of child custody.

If convinced of the need, a court can issue a temporary change of custody on a temporary basis. The court will also schedule the case for further proceedings to get evidence regarding the contention that neglect is occurring and custody should be changed.

If you believe that changing child custody is necessary, the legal team at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen can schedule an appointment with you to discuss your case. You can reach a child custody attorney at our firm by calling (201) 845-7400.

Client Reviews
Peter has integrity, and values his relationships with his clients beyond his financial relationship with them. For me to say this about any lawyer is really saying something. He is compassionate, straightforward and knowledgeable. I would easily recommend him to anybody. Lewie W.
Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
Peter is an exceptionally great attorney. He handled my child custody case and was able to ease any of my concerns with honest answers. He always took the time to explain the pros/cons and was always available to answer any questions that I had… I would highly recommend this attorney to anyone who is looking for one. Jessica Cruz
Peter Van Aulen is a very compassionate, honest and straightforward person. He was there for me at my lowest point with a genuine concern not only for my situation, but for me and my child's well being above all… He is fair and he is strong and when push comes to shove he is there for you. Cathy Dodge
Our cousin used Peter's law office to help with a sticky custody situation. He was extremely responsive, very nice and most importantly did an awesome job with the court! He is awesome. Lawrence Polsky

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