Can I Modify my New Jersey Child Custody Agreement?

When parents go through a divorce, they are required to settle many matters relating to their children. One of the most important matters includes child custody. When a child custody agreement is decided upon, it is required to be followed by all parties involved, otherwise it can be enforced by the court and parents can face certain consequences. While this is true, the court understands that life changes overtime and families may find themselves with a custody agreement that no longer suits them. When this happens, it is possible for a parent to petition the court to receive a modification of these arrangements. Continue reading below to learn more about this process.

When Can I Modify Custody Arrangements?

It is important to understand that parents cannot simply modify arrangements when they feel like doing so. Instead, they are required to demonstrate that there is a reason for the change in custody. The following are a variety of reasons as to why a modification may be requested:

  • The child’s best interests. If a child is unhappy in their current living situation or the situation is not working out for them, the court is likely to grant a modification.
  • The child is in danger. If a parent feels their child is in danger from their co-parent, family, etc., or they have evidence of abuse or neglect, they can file a petition to modify the custody arrangement to prevent the child from experiencing harm.
  • Relocation. If a parent needs to move out of the area, whether it may be for work or family matters, they may request a modification to change the custody orders to bring the child with them.
  • A parent cannot meet the needs of their child. If a parent is working to balance their life with a career or unemployment at the same time as being a parent, they may need to modify their custody agreement so it better suits the needs of their child.
  • One parent is not cooperating. If the agreement states joint custody but one parent does not uphold their end of it, a modification can be requested. 
  • One parent passes away. If a co-parent passes away and the other parent does not want their new spouse to raise their child, they can seek to gain full custody of their child. 

How is Custody Modified?

When seeking a modification of a custody agreement, the best place to begin is to simply have a discussion with the child’s other parent. If both parents are on decent terms, there is a chance they may be able to negotiate the changes together or with the assistance of a mediator to reach a decision. This can allow a quicker and less stressful process. Even if it is done together, a modification petition must still be filed and approved by the judge.

In the event that parents cannot work together, the first step is to file a modification petition to receive a scheduled court date. It is at this time that the parent must provide the judge with the reason they want the modification of the custody orders. The judge can review the situation to determine if the changes are necessary and establish new custody orders to reflect the decision. This is done based on what is best for the child.

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If you require strong legal representation for matters of divorce and family law in New Jersey, contact The Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.