If a divorced couple’s initial child custody agreement doesn’t work out the way they’d hoped it would, it is possible to change that child custody agreement through court action. There are a few ways to make changes to existing custody agreements in New Jersey.
Child Custody Agreements
By far, the least stressful way to change a custody agreement is for the parents to work together to create a written contract that outlines their desired new arrangement, much like drafting their ideal divorce settlement during a collaborative divorce. An attorney can help with this process by writing the new agreement or by helping the parents to write it. Once a new contract is agreed upon and signed by both parties, it is submitted to the court for a judge’s signature. Once the new document has a judge’s signature, it becomes official and the family may proceed with its new agreement. Also like collaborative divorce, this option leaves families feeling empowered and like they are in control of their own custodial matters, rather than ceding their autonomy to the court.
Unfortunately, modifying a custody agreement isn’t always so simple. Sometimes, one parent’s behavior toward or around the child warrants a concern for the child’s wellbeing, and the child’s other parent might wish to amend the custody arrangement to alter the amount of time the child spends in each household. If the other parent refuses to cooperate with a collaborative custody arrangement modification, the concerned parent may file a motion to modify it through the court. That means that an official request is submitted to the court, which then leads to a hearing with a judge. The judge may order that the parents attend a mediation session to work out their conflicts on their own. If this option is successful, a new arrangement contract is drafted, sent to the court, signed by a judge, and approved. Otherwise, the couple is required to return to court for a second hearing, where their agreement is determined through litigation.
Reasons To Change Your Child Custody Agreement
There must be a significant reason for a family to seek a new custodial agreement, such as a dramatic change of circumstances in one or both households or a new, harmful change to the child’s environment. Examples include a move out of state, issues with alcohol or other drugs by one of the parents or another person in their household, or a move to a new residence that is too small to comfortably accommodate the child and the others that he or she lives with. Personal disagreements are not valid reasons to file a motion for modification and are denied by the court. In any case where such a motion for modification is filed, the filing parent must prove to the court that the circumstances presented are detrimental to the child and that a new custody arrangement is the best way to maintain a healthy environment for him or her. This motion must be filed with the court that handled the parents’ divorce and subsequent settlement. If the filing parent cannot concisely present his or her reasons for filing the motion, the court may order a plenary hearing for the couple, which is a lot like a trial. In a plenary hearing, witness testimonies are used to determine the parent’s claims and whether or not a custody arrangement alteration is best for the child. If witnesses can prove to the court that the child is currently suffering from a dangerous environment, the court will be more likely to grant the motion for modification.
Speak With A Child Custody Attorney In New Jersey
If you are interested in modifying your current child custody arrangement, call Villani and DeLuca at (732) 965-3350 for your free legal consultation. Villani and DeLuca have served Ocean and Monmouth county families together since 1996.