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Modifying Child Custody Orders in New Jersey: When and How

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Whether agreed to by the parties or decided by the court, child custody arrangements are formally established during divorce proceedings where minor children are involved. But circumstances can change over time, requiring modifications to these orders. Read on for a discussion surrounding when parents can request modifications to child custody orders in New Jersey, as well as the legal process involved and what parents need to show when seeking or opposing a modification. For help with child custody matters in Union, Essex, or Middlesex County, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro to review your situation with an experienced Union family law attorney.

Circumstances for Modifying Child Custody Orders

Substantial Change in Circumstances

The most common reason for modifying a child custody order is a substantial change in circumstances. This could include:

  • Relocation of a parent
  • Changes in the child’s needs
  • Job changes or loss affecting the ability to care for the child
  • Evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse
  • Changes in the child’s preference (for older children)

Parental Agreement

Parents can also agree to modify a custody order without litigating a dispute. However, it’s crucial to formalize this agreement through the court to ensure it is legally binding. Until modified by the court, the previous court order remains in place, and acting contrary to that arrangement can be legally consequential.

The Legal Process for Modifying Child Custody Orders

Filing a Motion

To request a modification, a parent must file a motion with the court that issued the original custody order. The motion should outline the reasons for the requested modification and provide supporting evidence.

Serving the Other Parent

The other parent must be served with a copy of the motion and given an opportunity to respond. If the other parent agrees to the modification, the process can be relatively straightforward.


In some cases, the court may require mediation to help parents reach an agreement on custody modifications. If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.

Best Interests of the Child

When deciding whether to modify a custody order, the court will consider the best interests of the child. Factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s safety and welfare, and the child’s preferences (if they are mature enough to express them) will be taken into account.

What Parents Need to Demonstrate to Secure a Custody Modification

Substantial Change in Circumstances

Parents seeking a modification must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the original custody order. This change must affect the child’s welfare and necessitate a modification to serve the child’s best interests.

Proposed Modification Is in the Child’s Best Interests

Parents must also demonstrate that the proposed modification is in the child’s best interests. This requires showing that the modification will promote the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development.

Ability to Meet the Child’s Needs

Parents must demonstrate their ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs. This includes providing a stable and loving environment for the child.

Cooperation with the Other Parent

Courts also consider each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other parent and foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.

Get the Help You Need With Child Custody Matters in Union, New Jersey

For help with child custody or other family law matters in Union, Middlesex, or Essex counties, call Union Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102. Our team is here to help parents navigate the legal process smoothly and successfully.

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