How to Change Custody in New Jersey

As attorneys that change and enforce custody arrangements in New Jersey, it is important for our clients to know the process and how the courts view these types of applications.

First, if parents were never married then the application will take place in the “non-dissolution” section of the court system.  This special section is designed to be user-friendly – although in reality, it often is anything but user-friendly.  Docket numbers in this section begin with the letters “FD” (unlike divorce court, which starts with “FM”).  Judges in this section are often rotated, meaning that when you go to court you get a different judge every time.

Second, the guiding principal of law applied to custody applications is the “Best Interest” standard.  This means that the court will primarily consider the “Best Interest” of the child when making decisions.

Here’s an example of how it works.  Let’s assume the father has Supervised Visitation (maybe he’s just starting to get parenting time and he agreed to begin with supervised parenting time).  When it is time to review the arrangement and get more parenting time, the court will often state that it is “not in the best interest of the child” to go directly from supervised parenting time to overnight parenting time.

That’s ok!  It just means that the court thinks it is best to have a “phased in” approach to parenting time.  Take it one step at a time, and think about how that it best for the child.

Third, remember that custody orders will also consider child support.  The child support guidelines (which is the law) in New Jersey is based upon a computer algorithm.  Various factors are inputted into this algorithm, such as the parents’ income, cost for health insurance and number of overnights with the child.  As these numbers change, child support can go up or down.  When considering custody, courts will often re-calculate child support.

If you have questions about any of these issues, contact us for a free consultation.

David E. Gray, Esq.



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