Trying to Modify Your Child Custody Plan? Here Are 3 Steps To Take Right Now

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Is your current parenting time or child visitation plan just not working out? If you are considering seeking modification to an existing New Jersey child custody order, it will be important for you to provide evidence as to why a change to your custody order is in the best interests of your child.

What kind of evidence can shed light on why a new custody arrangement or visitation schedule is needed? Here are three key pieces of evidence to have on hand.

Parenting Log: If you haven’t already, buy a notebook and start keeping track of your parenting time (or download a co-parenting smartphone app with a journal function). In court, these kinds of written records are often referred to as a “custody journal.” For each entry, write the date and make any notes about important events, milestones, or issues that cropped up. Items to list include:

• Late pick-ups and drop-offs,
• Missed or cancelled visits,
• Health appointments and medical information,
• Discussions with the other parent,
• Your child’s mood and emotions when interacting with the other parent,
• Your child’s behavior,
• Issues you want to talk about with the other parent,
• How your child is doing in school and other activities,
• Your child’s milestones and development,
• Your child’s grades in school, and
• Anything else you want to remember.

For some parents, the act of journaling helps them to see what specific suggestions for changed parenting time/visitation may be best. For example, if the child’s other parent is consistently late picking up at the custody swap, and this behavior is visibly upsetting to the child, the courts may consider this information as good enough reason why a different schedule is needed.

Photo Records: Along with your parenting log, keep a photo/video record showing some of the highlights of your time with your child. Did you take a special trip? Did you spend time redecorating your son or daughter’s room in your home? Did you celebrate your child’s birthday together? A picture can be worth a thousand words when describing the relationship you have with your child and the quality of time you spend together. Likewise, collect notes and cards the two of you may have written each other, and keep that drawing of the two of you your child made. This kind of information may be useful in establishing the closeness of your bond, if needed.

Other Records & Documents: At the time of your divorce, did your hectic work schedule keep your parenting time to a minimum — and now those work hours have diminished? Did you move to a new home and now have a separate bedroom for your child? Do you now live closer to the child’s other parent and/or the child’s school — or on the other hand, do you live father away? Do you need to move for your job? Before embarking on the modification process, gather evidence for major life changes on your part that may impact your child’s life and require visitation changes.

What’s next? The process of modifying a child custody order in New Jersey can either take place in family court, in which case a judge makes the decision to accept or deny a formally filed motion, or the modification process can take place out of court, if both parents agree to a consent order changing the current arrangement. Please see our article on post-divorce child custody modification to learn more.

If you are considering child custody modification, we are here to provide you with the legal guidance you need to arrive at the best arrangement for your child and family. Please contact us today to schedule your initial, confidential attorney consultation.