Understanding the Ins and Outs of Changing Child Custody
Some of the most challenging and heated divorce-related disputes center on issues surrounding children. Since about 50% percent of all kids will witness the divorce of their parents, custody is an issue for many families. Those who want to change a child custody order may have to go through several legal steps.
Standard Applied by Courts in Considering Custody Change
When a New Jersey court is confronted with a custody modification request, the judge applies what is known as the best interests of the child standard. This is the same judicial standard that is used by a New Jersey family court in making an initial determination regarding custody and parenting time or visitation during initial divorce proceedings.
At its essence, the best interests of the child standard mandates that custody decisions need to be made to foster a child’s physical and mental health, happiness, security and proper emotional development. Thus, when a request to change custody is brought before the family court, the focus is on the needs of the child rather than the desires of the parents.
New Jersey courts do not apply a proverbial “cookie cutter” approach to decision-making. Rather, a family court judge considers the specific facts and circumstances presented in a particular case when deciding whether changing an existing custody arrangement is appropriate. Examples of specific factors considered by the family court when contemplating a change of custody include:
- Physical and mental health of the parents and child
- Need to maintain a consistently stable home environment
- Reason for requested change of custody
- Length of time current custodial arrangement has been in force
- Evidence of substance abuse by parent
- Evidence of physical or emotional abuse of child
- Evidence of neglect of child
- Preference of child (depending on child’s age and capacity)
Agreement to Change Custody
In some instances, parents are able to reach an agreement regarding making a change of custody. For example, if one parent is moving to a different city, a custody and parenting time change may be necessary. Ideally, parents will be able to work through a custody change on their own. In New Jersey, there is a preference for parents to be able to work through issues associated with their children without the need for immediate court intervention.
You need to keep in mind that even if you and the other parent reach an agreement to change an existing custody order, the alteration must be approved by the court. Even when parents reach an agreement regarding child custody, a family court judge must still examine the arrangement to ensure that it is in the best interests of the child.
No Agreement to Change Custody
If you and the other parent are unable to reach an agreement to change custody, the court needs to become directly involved in the issue. This is accomplished by preparing a filing of what is known as a motion to change custody with the family court. This is a type of legal process that is best handled by an experienced Hackensack divorce lawyer.
A motion to change custody sets forth the reasons a modification of the existing custody order is needed. The other parent has the right to file a reply to the motion objecting to the requested change of custody. The court will schedule a hearing to consider testimony and other evidence regarding the motion to change custody.
Hackensack Divorce Lawyer for a Change of Custody Case
If you’re going through a custody dispute, consider retaining the professional services of an experienced Hackensack divorce lawyer who will fight for the best interests of your child. The legal team at the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco has an extensive background in representing parents in a wide array of post-divorce matters, including modification requests for child custody and parenting time. Call our office in Hackensack at (201) 343-0078 to schedule a no-cost and no-obligation consultation.