Proper Process for Changing New Jersey Child Custody
If you are a divorced parent with children, you may be at a juncture at which you feel the need or desire to change an existing New Jersey child custody order. With that in mind, there is a process in place to alter, amend, or change a New Jersey child custody order. In this article, we provide you with an overview of this process. If you have more questions about the child custody modification process, you should consult with an experienced attorney at your earliest convenience.Judicial Standard Warranting a Change of Child Custody
Public policy and the best interests of children prevent child custody arrangements from being changed on a whim. The best interests of children dictate that there needs to be a level of stability and permanence when it comes to matters associated with child custody, parenting time, and child support. As a consequence, in order for a court to consider a request to change custody, the parent seeking such an alteration needs to demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrant a modification.
Examples of what can constitute a substantial change of circumstances sufficient to trigger a reconsideration of an existing custody arrangement include:
- Change in regard to a parent’s employment
- Parent’s remarriage or cohabitation and its impact on a child
- A parent’s substance abuse and its affect the child
- A parent violates an existing child custody order
- A child’s needs change
- Child abuse, neglect, or endangerment occurs
- One or both parents relocate
- Current New Jersey child custody order impacts a child’s education or medical needs
The judicial process associated with changing child custody begins with the filing of what is known as an Application for Modification of Child Custody Order. In this court document, the parent seeking a modification of an existing custody order needs to include:
A statement and explanation as to why and how a substantial change in circumstances has occurred warranting that an existing child custody arrangement be changed.
An allegation of specific facts underscoring what the parent seeking the change maintains represents a material change in circumstances.
A contention that the recommended change in custody is in the best interests of the child or children.
A statement in regard to specifically how the custody order is desired to be changed.Response from Other Parent
Upon the filing of an Application for Modification of Child Custody Order, the other parent has the opportunity to file a written response. In that document, the parent opposing a change of custody can argue why there has been no substantial change of circumstances warranting a change. In theory, an opposing parent might also argue that even if there is an indication of a substantial change in circumstances, the best interests of the child or children would not be served by changing the existing custody arrangement.Hearing on Application for Modification of Child Custody Order
Ultimately, when a contested application is made to change child custody, a hearing will be held. At the hearing, both parents – ideally through their attorneys – present evidence to support their positions in regard to a possible change of child custody. Evidence can include testimony from the parents and others as well as documents and other materials.
Following a hearing, a judge will consider the evidence and the law. Based on that review and analysis, a judge will issue an order either upholding the existing child custody order or issue a new decree with a new custodial arrangement.Agreement of Parents to Change Child Custody
There are instances in which both parents desire to change an existing New Jersey child custody order. New Jersey courts prefer parents to work out issues between themselves. If parents reach an agreement regarding child custody, that new arrangement needs to be put down in writing. It is not binding until a judge has the chance to review the proposed change in custody. A New Jersey court typically will approve a proposal from parents regarding a change in child custody with one caveat. A judge will review a proposed change to confirm that a new custody arrangement is in the best interests of a child or children. If you have a child custody case, call us at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.