When can New Jersey parents request a custody modification?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

When parents in New Jersey establish shared custody arrangements, they may agree on the terms of their circumstances. Many parents try to work out an amicable custody arrangement during a New Jersey divorce. Other times, parents must go to court because they cannot agree on how to share parenting time and authority.

Once the courts approve a final custody order, there is an expectation that the family will abide by the terms included in the document. Despite the efforts of everyone involved in creating the custody order, it may become obsolete due to changes in family circumstances.

When can someone potentially modify or formally change a New Jersey custody order?

After a substantial change in circumstances

Parents should do their best to abide by the current custody order. However, they may need to change the order when it no longer meets the needs of the children and the family as a whole. The courts do not want to see parents back every few months to make minuscule changes to a custody order. Therefore, any formal modification typically requires proof of a substantial change in circumstances.

A parent starting a new job, seeking to move a significant distance away or consistently failing to meet the needs of the children could constitute a substantial change. In cases where parents agree to a change in the division of parenting time or other custody terms, they can do so amicably. They can file paperwork for an uncontested custody modification at virtually any time.

Other times, each parent will have their own idea about what would be the best solution for changing family circumstances. In a contested or litigated modification scenario, a judge would review the existing order and try to determine what would be in the best interests of the children.

They might grant one parent more time with the children if they have improved their circumstances or reduce appearance time with the children if they have consistently canceled or failed to meet the needs of the children during their parenting time. Particularly when parents do not agree about a custody modification, documentation of issues, like the children coming home with bruises or without having eaten, will be important to convince the courts of what would be in their best interests.

Parents who have questions or concerns about their custody arrangements and/or parenting plan options can seek legal guidance accordingly at any time.

FindLaw Network