In New Jersey, child custody orders can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the last custody order. Here’s a guide to understanding this process:
When Can a Child Custody Order Be Modified?
In New Jersey, a parent or guardian seeking to modify their custody order must first demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances since the original or last custody order was issued. The substantial change could include:
- Relocation: One parent is moving to a different city, state, or country.
- Parenting Concerns: Issues related to the child’s welfare, such as substance abuse, neglect, or a substantial change in the child’s behavior or school performance.
- Change in Work Schedule: Changes in a parent’s work schedule that significantly affect their ability to adhere to the original parenting time schedule.
- Preferences of the Child: As a child grows older, their preferences might be considered if they are of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision.
Steps to Modify a Child Custody Order:
- Consult with a Family Law Attorney: Modifying a custody order is a complex process. A family law attorney can provide you with guidance tailored to your situation.
- File a Motion/Application: If the parents or guardians cannot reach a mutual agreement, the party desiring the change will need to file a motion or application along with all of the appropriate forms to modify the custody order in the same court where the original or last order was issued.
- Attach a Certification: Along with your motion or application, you must include a certification detailing the reasons for the requested modification and how it serves the best interest of your child. Attach to your Certification exhibits that support the statements made in your Certification.
- Attend the Oral Argument or Summary Hearing: An oral argument or summary hearing will be scheduled where you will present your case. The court will consider the Certifications and exhibits, which may include school records, medical reports, or testimonies. It is not appropriate to present new evidence at oral argument or the summary hearing that was not included with the motion or application.
- Court’s Decision: Provided the moving party has met their burden to prove a substantial change in circumstances, the court will base its decision whether to modify the parenting time schedule on the best interest of the child considering several factors such as the child’s needs, parents’ ability to agree and communicate, child’s relationship with both parents, and more.
Courts do not modify existing custody orders lightly or without compelling reasons to do so. It is advisable to consult with a professional to navigate this complex process and ensure the welfare of your child.
If you or someone you know has a question regarding modifying a custody and parenting time order, contact the Williams Law Group, at (908) 810-1083, today to learn more about how we can assist you.