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Am I able to change my child custody order?

Life is full of unexpected challenges. You might think that things will settle after a divorce – and they probably have – but that doesn’t mean you won’t face another obstacle down the road. For divorced couples with kids, you may come across a time when your custody agreement needs to change.

Custody arrangements in New Jersey are based on a variety of factors. Judges will typically consider what is in the child’s best interests as well as understanding the relationship between the child and parents, the stability and environment of each parent’s home, and the preference of the child if they are 12 or older.

Whether you and your ex-spouse have joint or sole custody, changing your custody agreement can be a difficult undertaking. You will have to prove to a judge that there is a significant change in circumstances that make the current custody order inapplicable.

If your ex-spouse is the custodial parent – meaning your child lives with them – then you may have grounds to request modification under the following circumstances:

  • Either you or your ex-spouse is moving to another state that will affect the relationship with your child.
  • Your ex-spouse has a new partner who is living with them, whom you believe may negatively influence your child.
  • Your ex-spouse has developed an unhealthy reliance on alcohol or drugs.
  • Your child has requested their desire to live with you.

When it comes to modifying your custody agreement, many of the same rules apply to when you first created the plan. A judge will consider what is in your child’s best interests before granting a new custody order. It’s generally a good idea to discuss your plans with your ex-spouse before submitting a formal request; your ex may be willing to update the agreement, especially if they’re moving away.

If your ex is uncooperative, then consulting with an attorney who has experience in child custody cases can help you through the process of filing a request. Regardless of the situation, it’s important to remember that changing custody agreements should be about your kids and providing the best life and opportunities for them to thrive and grow into the future.