How to Change Custody of a Minor in New Jersey

By Beverly Bird

After parents separate or divorce, life goes on; children grow older and their needs change. Parents move on, too, establishing new relationships or moving on to new jobs. Eventually, changed circumstances might require alterations in the custody terms. All states allow parents an opportunity to modify custody orders. In New Jersey, there's an easy way and a hard way to accomplish this.

After parents separate or divorce, life goes on; children grow older and their needs change. Parents move on, too, establishing new relationships or moving on to new jobs. Eventually, changed circumstances might require alterations in the custody terms. All states allow parents an opportunity to modify custody orders. In New Jersey, there's an easy way and a hard way to accomplish this.

By Consent

The easiest way to change custody in New Jersey is to amicably work out a new agreement with your child’s other parent. Such an agreement must be in writing and filed with the court. You may have a lawyer draft the new consent order or write it yourself. Consent orders clearly specify the new terms on which you've agreed, along with language indicating that the parties want the new terms to replace the existing custodial court order. Both parents must sign it, then submit it to the court for the judge’s signature, which makes your new arrangement official.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Modification Proceedings

If you can’t come to an agreement with your ex, you’ll have to use a court procedure. In New Jersey, this means filing a motion for modification. These motions are filed with the same court that granted your divorce or issued your existing custody order. The motion for modification process may involve two hearings. At the first hearing, the judge can order you to attend mediation to try to work out a new custody arrangement on your own. If you’re successful, the mediator will submit the new terms to the court, where the judge will issue a new custody order. If you and your ex fail to reach an agreement, you’ll have to go back to court for a second hearing, where the judge will rule on the matter.

Change of Circumstances

Your family's changed circumstances must be significant for a New Jersey judge to alter an existing custody arrangement, unless you do so by consent. A judge probably won’t grant a change of custody just because you don’t like your ex’s new girlfriend and you don’t want her around your child. But if his new girlfriend abuses drugs or alcohol and lives with your ex, this may constitute a significant change of circumstances that would convince the court to alter custody. If your ex plans to move out of state, this circumstance might warrant a change of custody so your child can remain with you. The court will consider if your child has close emotional ties to you and your neighborhood and whether she wants to leave. If your ex moves to a new residence that is simply too small for your child to have a bedroom of her own, this, too, might qualify as a significant change of circumstances and convince a judge to modify custody.

Burden of Proof

If you file a motion for modification, the burden of proof is on you to convince the court that the changed circumstances would be detrimental to your child. In this case, you must document how your child would be negatively affected, and attach copies of this proof to your motion papers. If your situation is too complicated to address at a simple motion hearing, the judge may order a plenary hearing instead. A plenary hearing is much like a trial, where you'll be permitted to call witnesses who can substantiate your case with testimony. Witness testimony usually isn't heard at motion hearings in New Jersey.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
My Ex-Wife Is Trying to Gain Custody of Our Children after Our Divorce Decree

References

Related articles

Child Custody & State Lines in Indiana

Your divorce court distributed custody of your children based on your family’s circumstances at the time of your divorce, but circumstances often change after divorce. If you are the custodial parent and plan to relocate, Indiana law, which changed in 2006, requires you to provide notice to your ex-spouse so he has an opportunity to object to the move.

How to Undo Custody Arrangements in New Jersey

The divorce process can be a bumpy road. You may think you have certain issues resolved, such as custody, but then something happens that makes you uncomfortable with the terms you agreed to, or you may disagree with a judge's decision. In New Jersey, you may or may not be able to undo the arrangement. It depends a great deal on where you are in the divorce process and why you want to change your parenting plan.

Divorce & Changes in Circumstance in Massachusetts

Ideally, if a significant change occurs in your life, it will happen while you are in mid-divorce, so your eventual decree can adequately address it. This isn't usually the case, and Massachusetts allows spouses to modify the terms of their decrees after divorce to accommodate changes. However, unless you and your spouse agree to a modification by consent, Massachusetts judges require “substantial and material” changes in circumstance before they’ll issue a modification order. “Substantial” means the change must be big; “material” means it must directly relate to the provision you want to change.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Reverse a Divorce Settlement

While you may have no regrets about ending your marriage, you could have them regarding the marital settlement ...

How Can a Motion for Custody Change Be Dismissed?

A child custody order is modified by filing a motion to change custody. A level of permanence is associated with child ...

Remarriage & Custody

Remarriage is usually not a reason for a change in custody unless other factors are involved. Parents naturally move on ...

How to Modify Your Divorce in Oklahoma

When a couple obtains a final divorce decree in Oklahoma, the order includes certain provisions that govern issues like ...

Browse by category