Your New Jersey custody order or parenting plan is a court order detailing how you and your ex should share parental responsibilities. Although there are certain considerations that every parenting plan will address like the overall division of parenting time, many of the details included in your custody order are specific to your family circumstances.
Factors ranging from your employment schedules and the preferences of your children to your health and prior parenting responsibilities will influence how much decision-making authority and parenting time you have.
Do you have to continue to abide by an outdated order, or can you ask the courts to change your custody order when your family situation changes?
The courts can issue formal modifications
Although a custody order is an enforceable court order that both you and your ex should uphold, either of you can potentially go back to court and ask a judge to change or modify the existing order. To do so, you usually need to show that there has been a significant change in family circumstances. Accepting a new job, planning for your children to change schools or uncovering signs of child abuse are all reasons that you might ask for a custody modification.
As with your initial custody proceedings, you can either cooperate with your ex for an uncontested modification filing or you can litigate a contested modification. If a judge has to decide whether a modification is necessary or not, they will look at the current custody order and any evidence provided by the parents to decide what is in the best interests of the children in the family.
Judges usually want to see parents cooperating with one another and focusing on the children rather than on petty conflicts. A judge might modify a parenting plan to increase the time of a parent who has stabilized their life or reduce the time awarded to a parent who has become abusive or neglectful toward the children.
You will typically want together documentation of any changes or family situations that you believe might alter a judge’s decision in your case. Going to court for a formal custody modification can be beneficial for your relationship with your children and their overall well-being.