Child Custody Modification Attorney in Union and Middlesex County, NJ
Child custody arrangements are not written in stone and can change with help from a Family Law Attorney serving Cranford, Rahway, Elizabeth, Roselle and surrounding towns in Central New Jersey.
Divorcing couples face so much uncertainty. They worry about how their children will adapt, how they will make ends meet, and what the future holds. And yet, when a divorce is final, the divorce decree gives ex-spouses a sense of order and security with a road map of responsibilities. It is a snapshot of the parties’ familial, social, and economic lives. Frozen in time are the couple’s income, child custody arrangement, employment, retirement, health care, and more. Eventually, people move on from divorce. They get remarried, new jobs, and new homes. Children grow up, and families adapt as two households instead of one. Since people and circumstances change, family law anticipates updating divorce decrees, especially child custody orders. Thus, changed circumstances warrant child custody agreement modifications.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Modify Custody in NJ, or Can I do it Myself?
Changing a custody order entails filing the proper papers with the court and getting a judge to sign the order. Though you may represent yourself in family court, you are better off finding a family law attorney to help you. Knowledge of the laws, rules of court, and courtroom policies are essential to navigating the court you rely on for such an important matter. To get a child custody modification, you must know which forms to file and when, how to serve the other party, and how to get your case on the court calendar, among countless further details of getting a court order.
Your time is valuable, and an attorney does more than file forms for you. We at The Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper, Esq, are invaluable counselors when you need advice on such a potentially delicate and volatile matter as a child custody modification order.
What Do I Need to Start a Child Custody Modification in New Jersey?
All child custody modifications begin with asking the court for a new order. Without a court order, your child custody arrangement is dictated by the terms of the divorce decree or prior custody order. You must demonstrate a significant change of circumstances justifying a new child custody order in your written moving papers or petition. Typical reasons for a custody change include the child’s best interests, which could mean the child is old enough to decide where they want to live and wants the change for good reason, like location or community ties. One parent may live closer to a child’s friends, school, and extracurricular activities.
A more compelling reason may be safety. Children in harm’s way due to domestic violence, substance abuse, or environmental toxins may need to be in a safer home. Alternatively, the custodial parent may be unable to care for their child any longer due to a change in physical, emotional, mental, or financial circumstances. For example, people lose jobs, fall ill, or experience temporary incapacity. One parent may die or wish to move away with the child for employment or family reasons. Finally, a modification may be necessary for stability if one parent habitually defies the court order by returning the child late or not at all.
Before filing a motion requesting a child custody modification, you might sit down with your ex, if that is safe or potentially productive, and work out an agreement to modify custody. Whether you and your ex agree to modify your child custody order or not, you will need the court to approve your custody changes. And if you are unable to get the other party to agree, you will have to file your motion to modify a child custody judgment and let a judge decide.
What Does a Substantial Change in Circumstances Mean for Changing Custody?
Included in your petition should be evidence supporting your reasons for the modification’s necessity and how the change is best for your child. For example, if your original order occurred when your child was six years old, but your child is now 16 years old, the child’s best interests may be to live with the noncustodial parent or have the option not to visit a parent as scheduled. An older child may not want to spend every other weekend and one weekday evening at their mother’s or father’s home.
They may want the freedom to arrange parenting time as mutually agreed, so the teenager can make their weekend soccer games, meet with classmates for school projects, or spend time with friends. It is far easier for a parent to stick to a custody schedule when a child is six than when that same child is 16. Ultimately, a judge will grant a modification motion if it is in the child’s best interests. You may not be able to persuade a busy teenager to stick to a schedule that no longer works for them and interferes with their educational and social wellbeing.
However, New Jersey law favors and protects parenting time, so a judge may not quickly terminate or change a parenting agreement without good reason. In the case of a teenager wanting to change households or modify the parenting schedule, a judge must weigh the child’s best interests against the importance of parenting time with children. Factors that may influence the outcome one way or another are the reasons for the child’s desires, the age of the child, and the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child. The custodial parent’s influence may also play a role, especially if the parents carry hatred toward one another. The court will examine if one parent is not unduly influencing the child to the detriment of the noncustodial parent.
What Role Does the Child’s Best Interest Play in the New Agreement?
Overall, the court must always consider the child’s best interests in modification requests. For example, a parent may want to move out of state to advance their career or take care of aging parents, be near family or obtain more affordable housing. While these are legitimate reasons for the parent’s move, they may not be in the best interests of a child, again, depending on the child’s age, the ties to their current home, and the parenting time with the noncustodial parent. Luckily, there are many options in accommodating parenting time. Some options include extended vacation times with the noncustodial parent in another state or even flying to the noncustodial parent once a month.
Call our Linden NJ Child Custody Modifications Lawyer Near You for a Consultation
Our experienced child custody attorney, Mr. Edward Cooper, can help you arrive at a feasible solution to a child custody modification and, if necessary, fight tirelessly on your behalf amidst a custody dispute.
Weighing all the factors, parties’ needs, and the child’s best interests, our seasoned family lawyers can craft a custody arrangement that comes as close to satisfying the competing causes of ample parent-child time and the child’s evolving needs and desires.
Call us at (908) 481-4625 for your child custody modification matter in Plainfield, Westfield, Hillside, Roselle, Clark, Mountainside, Summit, and across Middlesex and Union County.