Divorces are difficult for everyone involved, especially any shared children. The parents can jointly agree to a custody and visitation arrangement if they are able, or the arrangement can be established by a judge. The arrangement will typically dictate whether the parties will enjoy sole or joint legal and physical custody over the children, as well as set a general schedule for visitation and parenting time for the non-custodial parent. The goal is to set a plan that the parties can live with for the foreseeable future, but circumstances may change for a variety of reasons. One spouse may get a new job in a different location or have a significant change in financial circumstances that may necessitate a change. If one parent wishes to change the plan, and the other parent disagrees, then the parties may need to go back to court to resolve the dispute. Learn more below about modifying a parenting plan under New Jersey law, and reach out to a knowledgeable Englewood child custody and modification lawyer with any questions you may have.
The Best Interests of the Child Always Control
If one parent wishes to modify a parenting plan, they can attempt to negotiate a new plan with their co-parent. If the other parent disagrees, then the party seeking modification will have to file a motion in family court. The court will hold a hearing and will likely invite the parents or their attorneys to explain each side of the case. New Jersey courts consider a modification of parenting time as a change in the custody arrangement. Accordingly, courts view any proposed change to the parenting plan under the same standard: A moving party must show (1) a substantial change in circumstances, and (2) that the best interests of the child would be served by altering the parenting plan.
Substantial changes in circumstances include things like one spouse’s intended relocation to a new state, one parent cohabiting with a new partner, the custodial parent losing a job or otherwise becoming financially unstable, a criminal conviction by either spouse, a significant injury to any party involved, evidence that one parent is abusing drugs or alcohol while around the child, a charge of abuse, a parent’s refusal to comply with the existing order, or a significant change in the child’s schedule such as attending primary school, boarding school, or college. If nothing has changed for any party, then a court will not entertain a motion for modifying the parenting plan. One parent cannot simply decide that they do not like the arrangement that they previously agreed to or that was ordered by the court.
Ultimately, whether the court will modify the parenting plan/custody arrangement will depend on the best interests of the child. This is a fact-intensive, case-by-case analysis that will depend on the discretion of the family court. If you are seeking modification of a parenting plan, be prepared to explain both how the circumstances have changed and why your modification will serve your child’s best interests.
Get the Help You Need and the Right Kind of New Jersey Divorce for You
For dedicated and effective legal help with a New Jersey divorce or other family law matter, contact the Englewood family law attorneys at Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151