Get Help from Experienced Child Custody Modification Lawyers
Child custody orders are not carved in stone. The New Jersey family court recognizes that life circumstances can change, which may require parents to ask for modifications to custody agreements. Either parent can request a change. However, according to New Jersey’s child custody law (NJSA 9:2-4), “the best interests of the child” is the foundational consideration in any custody decision, whether it is an initial custody order or a modification to that order. Even if a parent’s circumstances have changed, if the custody modification being requested is not deemed in the child’s best interests, it is unlikely that the Court will approve the requested modification. In seeking a modification, you will need to convince the court that the change in your life or the other parent’s life is significant to the extent that it impacts the best interest of the child or children.
At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our New Jersey child custody lawyer has extensive experience successfully handling custody modifications, as well as modifications to parenting time plans. If we accept your case, we will work hard to get you a modification to your custody order that meets all the requisite requirements and discuss a legal position that also discusses your child’s best interests. We also help the other side of the situation; so if you find yourself having to defend against a request to modify or change a custody or visitation arrangement that is currently in place, we can help you with that too.
Call us at (201) 880-9770 so we can learn about your situation.
How Do I Modify a Custody Agreement in New Jersey?
There Are Basically Two Ways to Modify Custody:
You can modify custody through a consent order or by filing a request (motion application) with the court. If you and the child’s other parent agree on the modification, you can present your revised agreement to the court and a Judge will sign off on it. The court will not investigate independently if what you and the other parent mutually agreed to is in the best interest of the child so long as you and the other parent do in fact agree. The court will simply stamp the document as “filed” and have the Judge sign his/her name.
If you don’t agree, the parent who wants to change the existing custody agreement will have to file a request with the court. To do so, that parent has to prepare and file an application (otherwise called a motion) with the court. If the application to the Court involves custody or parenting time, the court will most likely first send parents to mediation (N.J. Court Rules §1:40-5) before a Judge hears the substantive issues contained in the application. If mediation is unsuccessful, then a modification hearing with a New Jersey family court judge will be scheduled in which you and the other parent can present your cases. If you are the parent requesting the modification, you will have to describe how circumstances have significantly changed, how this change is impacting your child, and what you think an appropriate resolution is to the situation. . You will also need to convince the judge that the modification you’re requesting is in your child’s best interest. If you do settle at mediation, then there is no need to argue you case before a Judge and you and the other parent will put down your new agreement onto paper into a document called a “consent order” and file it with the Court.
The New Jersey court encourages people to get legal assistance rather than attempting to represent themselves in family law order modifications. The following paragraph is from the court’s own post-judgment motion documentation packet:
The law, the proofs necessary to present your case, and the procedural rules governing cases in the Family Division are complex. It is recommended that you make every effort to obtain the assistance of a lawyer.
We agree that there are complexities of modifying a child custody order, which is where the value of an attorney can make or break your success. Our skillful attorneys can ensure that the child custody modification forms and applications are properly filled out and filed with the court. We will also identify the evidence needed for your situation and represent you in the hearing before the Judge to argue you case on your behalf and present the facts in a methodology that gives you the best chance at success; sometimes a case is decided on how well or how bad a case is written or verbally argued to the Judge! You are probably an expert at a lot of things, but this may not be one of them. Don’t take the risk or be foolish to think that this is easy or that the substantive or procedural rules are straightforward. They are not and before you know it, you can find yourself in a big web, frustrated with the system, loosing time to actually get the relief you need, all the while inadvertently having the Judge have one perception about you that although not true, becomes hard to turn around. Seeking professional guidance before you make things worst is the wisest decision you could possibly do for yourself for a whole host of reasons!
Get Strong Legal Representation for Your Child’s Future
When your relationship with your child may be negatively affected if a modification isn’t approved or if your child’s well-being is potentially at stake, it makes sense to get the best legal representation you can help influence the decision in your favor. Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC is an award-winning Bergen County legal firm whose attorneys have years of experience practicing in family law, including successfully helping clients with child custody modifications.
What Are Reasons to Modify Child Custody?
The court may agree to modify child custody where there is a substantial change in circumstances of parents or children since the last order. Grounds for child custody modifications may include:
- Permanent Job loss
- A significant change in work schedule
- Serious illness
- Relocation – request to permanently relocate with the child to a different state or country
- A significant change in the child’s needs
- Alcohol or drug abuse of one parent
- Neglect, abuse or domestic violence or evolving DCPP&P investigation
- Failure of a parent to adhere to prior custody or visitation terms
- Incarceration of a parent
- Military service of a parent
These are just some examples of possible reasons to modify child custody. Ultimately it will be up to the judge to decide if a modification is in a child’s best interests once they learn all the facts of the situation.
How Hard is it to Modify Custody?
How hard is it to modify custody? If parents agree and can work out a plan between themselves, they can change custody terms by simply entering into a written agreement with the new terms and requesting that the Judge sign it and the Court file it as an official Court order. Even if you agree with the other parent, it is still a very good idea to have an attorney review the agreement to make sure your rights and interests are protected before presenting it for sign-off by a judge and either you are not giving away too much or you are inadvertently doing something determinantal to your rights for the long term.
But in cases where one parent doesn’t want a change, modifying custody becomes much more difficult. You will have to provide appropriate documentation and other evidence — possibly including witnesses, depending on the circumstances — to prove that the modification is significant, necessary, and in your child’s interests. You face a courtroom hearing that can become contentious with the other parent and their attorney. At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, in Hackensack, we will guide you through every step of the process and stand with you in the hearing.
Our lawyers have in-depth insight into New Jersey’s child custody laws and will make sure they are applied fairly when you request a modification. Call us for help at (201) 880-9770.
New Jersey Child Custody Lawyer Answers Common Questions
Disputes surrounding child custody are confusing and complicated. You probably have many questions, which we can answer once we learn the specific circumstances of your case. Here are some general answers to common questions we see in our practice.
Can my child testify in a custody modification hearing?
If your child is 10 or older, and depending upon their maturity level, the judge may allow them to testify in the hearing and provide their thoughts about the custody modification. That said, this is very rare and Judge’s would prefer to leave the children out of any legal battles between you and the other parent if at all possible. Often times, requests to the Judge to have the child testify are denied by the Judge except in exceptional circumstances where it is believed to be absolutely necessary. These are exceptions and not the rule. When there is a case that warrants having the Judge speak with the child, it has been determined through prior court proceedings that having the child’s input may be a valuable factor in helping the Judge decide on whether to approve or disapprove the modification. Even so, there are strict rules that the parties and the Judge have to comply with before the Judge can simply speak with a child. . Anytime a Judge makes the final decision on a custody modification hearing, it will include a determination on what is in the child’s best interest.
How long after the original custody order can I request a modification?
There is not a set amount of time you must wait after a custody order before asking for a modification. If there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the previous order, you can request a modification. But the change must not have been present when the original order was made; it must have occurred after the original order was put in place. In other words, it must be something new that evolved since the prior order or arrangement was implemented.
Are mothers favored over fathers in custody decisions?
They are not supposed to be. Under NJ Law, neither parent is supposed to be favored in custody decisions, including when it comes to modifying custody. The court is supposed to apply the law to both parents equally and give both parents and their legal positions equal, non- bias, consideration. Once all the facts are presented regarding the substantial change in circumstances, the court will make its decision about a custody modification based on the best interests of the child. However, there is still the possibility that past societal stereotypes about parents and parenting may unfairly contribute to decisions. Our men’s rights lawyers will aggressively advocate for your rights as a father.
Contact Our Skillful Hackensack Child Custody Modification Lawyers
We Understand What it Takes to Bring a Successful Custody Modification Case
Most parents want what is best for their children. When there has been a change in circumstances that you believe warrants a modification to custody, you can rely on us to help you understand the modification order process and represent your interests and those of your child or children. If a modification order has been filed by the other parent that you don’t agree with and believe is not in your child’s interests, we can also aggressively defend against the modification.
When Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC takes your case, we will work hard to provide effective legal counsel to get you a desired outcome.
Reach out to our law firm today to schedule a consultation by calling us at (201) 880-9770.