Child Custody Modifications
NJ Child Custody Modification Attorneys
Helping families adjust to changing circumstances
Many parents are uncomfortable with the perceived limits imposed by child custody agreements. When major life changes occur, they may feel the agreement needs to be updated to reflect the new reality. The future brings surprises, and even child custody agreements that have been crafted with attention to detail and future possibilities may need to be modified.
If a significant change has occurred in your family’s life, it may be possible to modify your child custody agreement. The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC have extensive experience and knowledge in successfully attaining modifications.
We can work with you to assess the situation, understand what has changed, and provide you with effective, constructive legal representation.
If you’re going through a divorce or seeking a child custody modification, contact us. Our child custody modification attorneys can guide you through the process of bringing about the change you need.
The Process for Modifying Child Custody Agreements in NJ
In divorce, child custody agreements can be a serious pain point. Children grow quickly, and after divorce, both parents often still want to be present for the milestones associated with growing up.
While it’s rare for a parent to successfully obtain a child custody modification because they’re unhappy with the agreement, it’s possible to alter an agreement in response to a substantial change in circumstances.
There are two ways to pursue a change:
- You can discuss the matter with your co-parent. If they agree to a modification, the two of you can sign a consent order or consent agreement.
- You can file a motion with the courts and prove that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, meriting a modification.
How to change a custody agreement
There’s more than one way to modify a child custody agreement.
A custody agreement can typically be changed if the co-parents agree on the modification. In this situation, the parent seeking the change should work with their child custody modification attorney to draft a consent order or consent agreement, which is a legal document that details exactly what the change will be and how it will work.
If the co-parents sign a consent order (or consent agreement), then they’ve legally agreed to alter their child custody agreement. The parent seeking the modification doesn’t have to prove anything has changed or file a motion with the court.
However, if your co-parent doesn’t agree to a change or to signing a consent order or consent agreement, then you’ll need to petition to modify child custody with the help of your child custody modification attorney.
Your attorney will work with you to gather evidence that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred and file a modification motion with the court. The court will review your family’s situation and make a decision.
At Jacobs Berger, our child custody modification attorneys have extensive experience helping families to adjust their child custody and parenting time agreements as the circumstances of the family change.
Reasons to Modify Child Custody in New Jersey
If your co-parent doesn’t agree to your request to modify your child custody order, you and your attorney will need to file a motion with the court to modify the agreement and present evidence of a substantial change in circumstances.
In order for your modification request to be successful, the changed circumstances need to be permanent and substantial.
Commonly cited changed circumstances include:
- The relocation of a parent
- A significant change in a parent’s work hours
- A significant change in the behavior or lifestyle of a parent, such as drug or substance abuse or a mental or physical illness
If, after examining both parent’s representations and any evidence each side presents, the court finds that there are permanent and substantial changes in circumstance which warrant a modification to the child custody arrangement, they’ll make their ruling in the same way they do during any divorce child custody dispute.
In addition to changed circumstances, the court will weigh the various needs of the child (financial, educational, emotional, etc.), their relationship with both parents, the relationship of the co-parents themselves, and any other factors relevant to the best interests of the child or children in question.
At Jacobs Berger, our child custody modification attorneys have extensive experience in resolving family law and child custody matters of all kinds.
How a Child Custody Attorney Can Help You
There are two paths for changing child custody orders: you and your co-parent can sign a consent order or consent agreement or you can file a motion with the courts to modify the order.
If your co-parent agrees to changing the child custody agreement, your attorney can help you draft a consent order or consent agreement for both of you to sign. The consent order is a legal document, so it’s important that the content is detailed and precise. This can help prevent legal issues down the line.
Conversely, if your co-parent doesn’t agree to a change, your child custody modification attorney can help you file a motion with the courts.
In this scenario, working with an attorney can be especially important because the court’s decision will rest, at least in part, on the proof of a substantial change in circumstances. (The court’s decision will also reflect what they believe is in the child’s best interest.)
NJ Child Custody Modification FAQs
The relative ease or difficulty of modifying a child custody agreement in New Jersey depends on many factors, including how your co-parent feels about the situation, if your family has experienced a substantial change in circumstances, and what’s in your child’s best interest.
If your co-parent is open to making a change to the custody agreement, then the process can be relatively straightforward. A lawyer can help you draft a consent order or consent agreement that describes the change, which you and your co-parent can sign.
However, if your co-parent doesn’t want to change the custody agreement, then you and your child custody modification attorney will need to prove that your family has experienced a substantial change of circumstances that merits a modification. You’ll have to provide evidence that a permanent change has occurred and the court will need to agree that the modification you’re seeking is in the child’s best interest.
Yes, you can change a custody agreement without going to court if your co-parent agrees to the change. If that’s the case, then you can both sign a consent order or consent agreement to make the change.
If your co-parent doesn’t agree to the proposed modification, then you and your attorney must file a modification with the courts. Although this path to change requires going through the court system, note that it isn’t the same as a trial, which is what many people think about when they hear the phrase “going to court.” A trial is only necessary if the court finds a substantial question of fact that it’s unable to settle without hearing testimony and reviewing documentation or without expert input. If a hearing is required, then the motion for modification becomes a trial.
In extreme circumstances, it’s possible to get an emergency child custody modification.
Emergency modifications are typically used in situations where abuse, domestic violence, significant neglect, or other circumstances may result in immediate harm to the child.
To pursue an emergency motion, you must file for an Order to Show Cause at the courthouse—with the help of an attorney, if possible. In the order, you’ll need to explain why you’re pursuing an emergency modification and prove that the harm is imminent and in most cases, irreparable. If the court finds you met the burden on paper, it’s likely a judge will then see you that same day, but in some cases you must notify your co-parent (or other custodial adult) that you’re filing for an emergency modification and that there will be a hearing.
At the hearing, you must show the child is in danger of immediate harm. If the judge agrees, then they’ll issue an emergency modification—which isn’t permanent. You, your attorney, and any other adult with custodial rights will need to return to the courthouse in approximately ten days’ time for a more extensive hearing, the outcome of which can result in a permanent child custody modification.
If the judge doesn’t agree that the situation is an emergency, then you’ll be scheduled for a standard hearing, no less than a month from your original application.
Contact Our Trusted Family Law Firm in New Jersey
Whether you’re pursuing a child custody modification through a mutual consent order or need to file or contest a child custody modification motion in the courts, the knowledgeable attorneys at Jacobs Berger can help with effective legal representation.
Our child custody modification attorneys have extensive experience in working with families to resolve all kinds of child custody matters.
If you’re seeking to modify your child custody agreement, contest a modification, or are going through a divorce and have concerns about custody, visitation, and parenting plans, contact us for a strategic planning session. Our family law attorneys can work with you to preserve future time with your child.