A child custody and visitation agreement can be modified after the final judgment if certain circumstances change in the lives of the child or the former spouses. For example, a visitation schedule that works well for a toddler may not work as well for a busy teenager with many educational and social obligations. There may also be major changes in a parent's life, such as receiving a job offer in another state or incurring a long-term disability that makes it difficult for them to care for the child full time. If you and your spouse have a civil relationship, you may be able to work out a new arrangement through mediation. This type of arrangement can save you considerable time and money, since the process involves only you, your former spouse and the mediator. Mediations can be scheduled at a day and time that is convenient for both parties— unlike a court hearing. In addition, a mediator will give you a clear breakdown of fees, which will be split between both spouses; with litigation, it's difficult to keep track of mounting attorney and court costs.
What Happens If You Can't Work Out Your Child Custody Agreement?
However, if you or your spouse cannot work together or agree on an arrangement, you may need to file a motion with the court. The motion will need to explain in detail that a significant change has occurred in you or your child's life, and that this change requires a modification to the current custody or visitation agreement. The motion will also need to specify whether the change pertains to the child's “legal custody” or “physical custody.” Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make important decisions in a child's life, such as choice of school, medical care and religious training. Physical custody simply refers to the parent with whom the child lives; it does not give that parent any more rights over issues effecting the child's development or welfare. As a general rule, legal custody is a parent's basic right, which cannot be taken away. A parent will only lose legal custody in extreme circumstances, such as a history of domestic abuse, or instability due to an addiction to alcohol or drugs. It is important to note that even if you proceed with litigation, the judge may order court-mandated mediation before proceeding with a trial. This is another reason why you may want to attempt private mediation before filing a court motion.
These are just some of the issues that you will need to discuss with an experienced divorce attorney in order to modify an existing child custody and visitation agreement. Even if you decide on private mediation, you should talk to your attorney ahead of time since a mediator cannot give you legal advice. Depending on your specific circumstance, your lawyer may need to advise you of procedures and documentation that will be required by the court, whether you choose mediation or litigation. For instance, if you are the custodial parent and wish to move out of New Jersey, you are legally required to obtain your former spouse's permission before doing so. In addition, you must receive permission from the court, which requires the filing of an application for relocation.
Reach Out To A Divorce Attorney
If you are considering modifications to your child custody arrangement, please consider speaking with Partner Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq. of Villani & DeLuca. Mr. DeLuca is certified as a Matrimonial Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which qualifies him to assist you with any aspect of your divorce, including post- divorce modifications. Please call (732) 709-7757 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!