Can You Change a Custody Agreement Without Going to Court?

Divorce agreement

After divorce, getting a custody and visitation agreement in place means the chance to move forward with your life with some semblance of stability of a schedule. The children (and the parents) develop a routine. But then, after a period of time, perhaps circumstances change – a parent moves out of state for a job or remarries, for example. Or the kids get older and their specific needs change. What once worked in a custody agreement does not work anymore.

New Jersey law has a lot to say about custody agreements. Generally, if both parents can amicably agree on a modification, then often a custody agreement can be changed without going to court. You may want to convert your mutual agreement into a court order and have the Judge file it as such. The benefit of having a court file your consent agreement is so that if there is a future disagreement, you can represent to a court or judge, if it gets to that point, that the other parent violated a “court order”; also, in the event authorities need to be called to assist in a dispute, you have a court order signed by a judge to show them.

If, however, one parent objects to a proposed custody and visitation change and it doesn’t appear there can be a compromise, then one option to go to court or hire an attorney to try to negotiate for you with the other parent’s attorney (or mediator).  If the court route seems to be your best bet under the circumstances, then your child custody lawyer will file a motion to modify the agreement, state all the reasons for it in alignment with what you are allowed to do under the law, and you will have to convincingly show that there’s been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the current agreement was put in place.  These changes of circumstances can be due to a myriad of things.  For example, there is evidence that a parent is neglecting the children’s basic needs; a parent is abusing alcohol or drugs; there is domestic violence in the home; or other similar life-changing events of either parent or the children.

We Can Help with Changes to Your Custody Agreement

If you find yourself wanting to change a custody or visitation agreement, or if you’ve been blindsided by a request from the other parent to change an existing agreement, then the best thing you can do is hire an experienced child custody lawyer to skillfully represent you.  At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our attorneys can guide you through the legal process of modifying a custody and visitation agreement so that we can find the best solution for the entire family.  We will help you understand your custody or visitation rights and work to achieve a new, more suitable agreement if necessary.  To find out more about how we can help, call us at 201-880-9770.

How Hard Is It to Change a Custody and visitation Agreement?

How hard a custody and visitation agreement is to change depends on the facts in the case. It also depends on whether or not the other parent agrees to a modification. If the other parent agrees, then altering a custody and visitation agreement may be relatively easy. However, if parents strongly disagree about a modification, then altering a custody agreement might be hard to do by compromise. You will likely need professionals to start to negotiate a fair resolution, and it may be best after lawyers are involved to decide whether participating in mediation (with the lawyers) to try to come to a compromise would be the first step or to just proceed to Court.

What Are the Remedies a Judge Can Impose in Custody Cases?

Sometimes custody agreements need to be modified because one parent has violated time and again the existing agreement or is putting children in harm’s way.  A judge can order remedies based on N.J. Court Rules §5:1-7, including economic sanctions, counseling for the children and/or parents, changes in transportation arrangements, and even criminal penalties in severe circumstances.  These are just a few of the many remedies a judge has the power to impose.  Also, in some cases, a judge can determine that a parent is “unfit” because of gross immorality, dangerous habits, neglect or other severe violations.

Whenever possible, it’s typically preferable for parents to amicably agree upon changes in custody agreements rather than fighting through hostile court proceedings. We understand that in some circumstances such a cooperative approach is not possible. A skilled child custody attorney is essential in these cases.

Types of Custody Agreements and Related Factors Judges Consider

There are different kinds of custody, and the difficulty in changing a custody agreement can depend on the type of custody you currently have and the nature of the proposed change. If you believe the type of custody agreement you have may change, talk to our team at Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC. We can offer guidance on whether and how potential changes may impact your type of custody agreement. Types of custody include:

  • Sole legal custody
  • Shared legal custody
  • Sole residential child custody 
  • Shared residential child custody 
  • Parent of primary residence (PPR)
  • Parent of alternate residence (PAR).

Several things can impact a judge’s determination of what’s in the best interest of the child. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • The stability of each potential home environment
  • The geographic distance between parents’ homes
  • The location and schedule of a child’s school
  • The child’s and parent’s physical and mental health
  • The relationships between the child and each parent
  • A child’s changing needs as they grow older
  • The level of cooperation between the parents.

As stated before, whether or not a judge will approve a change in a custody agreement depends on what is determined to be in the best interest of the child. A parent’s whim or casual convenience will almost certainly not be considered a significant reason to make a change.

Find Out if You Can Change Your Custody Agreement Without Going to Court

If you need to make a change in a custody agreement, then hiring a child custody lawyer is an important decision. You will want an attorney who is experienced in family law and is a wise and collaborative counsellor. At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our attorneys have decades of experience representing families in custody cases, and we are committed to finding solutions that take into account the concerns of everyone involved. The best custody agreements are the ones that put the children’s needs and happiness at the center. We are skilled negotiators and look for win-win outcomes. We will always represent our clients with zealous advocacy. To find out more about how we can help, call us at 201-880-9770.

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