Change of Circumstances for Custody Purposes - How Much is Enough?

Following a divorce or child custody order, both parents must settle into a new routine and create a new life for themselves and also a new pattern for the children. As the children grow and lives change, it is not uncommon for the parents to find that a custody order is no longer workable. If a parent wants a child custody order modified in the state of New Jersey, he or she must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s welfare. The parent requesting the change must also demonstrate that a change to the schedule is in the best interests of the child.  It is the responsibility of the requesting parent to demonstrate that the change is significant enough to warrant going forward with the case.

The relevant issue then, obviously, becomes, what is a change that is sufficiently significant to allow you to proceed with your case requesting a change in custody or visitation?  The change needs to be important and prominent in your child’s life. The difference here can be seen, for example, if you obtain a new job. The new job likely has a significant impact on your day-to-day life, but unless the hours are vastly different or the job requires a distant relocation, then the change is not significant for your child. A new paramour for the other parent is a frequent cause of parents wanting a change of custody or visitation, but unless the new boyfriend or girlfriend of the other parent is somehow unfit to be around a child, the change is not sufficiently significant.

Relocation is an example of a substantial change that often warrants a change in a custody order. One parent moving several hours away will clearly change the daily schedule of a child if the custodial parent wants to relocate, or at the very least the visitation schedule for the child if the non-custodial parent wants to relocate. A relocation that is short in distance, however, will probably not be considered a sufficiently substantial change. Note that even a long distance move by the custodial parent does not automatically mean a change that requires a change of custody.

If your situation has changed and you need to modify your parenting schedule, contact us today at (732) 529-6937. We have extensive experience in helping our clients change custody orders to conform to new situations and a child’s changing needs.
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