Change following a divorce or separation is inevitable. This is doubly true if you have children with your former spouse or partner, as the child’s needs will definitely change as he or she gets older. As things change, you or your former spouse may start to believe that the last court-ordered parenting plan is no longer workable. If this happens, either party may return to the court and request a change of custody. In order to be successful in such a change, the requesting parent must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances warranting such a change. The requesting party must then also prove that the new proposal is in the child’s best interest.
Fighting a change in custody starts, then, with the issue of a material change of circumstances. The requesting parent needs to prove that the change of circumstances is a material one. In other words, any small change in a child’s schedule or a parent’s home environment will not be enough to successfully change custody. Therefore, if you are trying to fight a change, you may first need to start with showing that the change is not material. This could show that there was no change at all, that the change is insignificant, the change is temporary, or another similar strategy. This strategy may often hinge on showing that the parent requesting the change has simply become dissatisfied with the arrangement and is blowing some small change in circumstances out of proportion.
If there has been a change, then the parent resisting a modification may want to focus on showing that the requested change of custody is not in the child’s best interest. The best interest factors are found in the New Jersey code, and contain a long and comprehensive list. The parent resisting the change should look carefully at these factors and determine which are the most applicable. For example, if the parent seeking to change custody would require the child to relocate to a new school district, the other parent may want to emphasize how well the child is doing in his or her current school and the exclusive nature of the extracurricular activities offered there. Courts tend to favor consistency and stability, so changing custody tends to be more of an uphill battle than modifying a parenting schedule.
If you are facing a child custody modification suit, you need an experienced team to help you with these issues. Contact us today at (732) 529-6937 and we can discuss your case and your child.