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.

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.

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.

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

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
How to Void a Custody Agreement


Related articles

With Temporary Custody of a Minor in Georgia Can I Leave the State and Still Have Custody?

If you have a temporary child custody order, the court may or may not permit you to leave the state of Georgia with your child. However, if you can and do leave with your child, the terms of your custody order would most likely remain unchanged -- at least until such time as a permanent order supersedes it.

How to Change Joint Custody When the Non-Custodial Parent Leaves the State in Arizona

Divorces represent an opportunity for couples to move on. For some, this process involves physically relocating to another town or state. However, if minor children are involved, Arizona places restrictions on a noncustodial parent's ability to modify joint physical custody following a move.

How to Change Your Last Name in Maryland

People seek to change their last names for a variety of reasons. You may have gotten married or divorced, or simply found a new name you like better than your old one. Although Maryland allows you to legally change your last name simply by using it, you will not be able to change your name on your identity documents without either a marriage certificate or a court order, depending on the reason you changed your name.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can You Go Back to Court for Custody After You Gave Your Child to Your Spouse?

Parents always maintain the right to go back to court to change custody arrangements after their divorce is final. The ...

How to Modify Parenting Time After a Divorce

The original parenting time order following a divorce may not be practical after a period of time due to a change of ...

Can I Amend a Divorce Decree After Five Months in Wisconsin?

Your divorce decree may address issues like child support, child custody and spousal support, but the decree may become ...

How to Modify a Divorce Decree in the State of Mississippi

Once your divorce decree is signed, your divorce case is complete, but you and your ex-spouse may later find it ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED