After their divorce has been finalized, many of my client’s return to meet with me regarding parenting time issues. In most of these situations, they are looking to change the parenting time arrangement that they had previously agreed to. While this might not sound like a complicated scenario, as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney, I am well aware that such a sentiment could not be further from the truth. Let’s explore further.
A parent seeking to modify a New Jersey child custody agreement must show that circumstances have changed that adversely affect the welfare of the children. In other words, the party looking to make the change must prove to the court by a “preponderance of the evidence” that a change in parenting time and/or custody shall not likely cause serious psychological damage to the children. It is important to note that the “best interest of the children” standard always applies when the parenting time schedule was previously agreed to by the parties or ordered by a New Jersey Family Court.
After I explain the law to my client, I investigate the specific facts. An example of a strong case would be a parent who never shows up for the scheduled parenting time. In that case, I advise my client to document this fact by sending a text or email asking why the other parent failed to appear for their scheduled time with the children (each and every time). After a relatively short period of such behavior, I feel confident that I shall be successful in modifying the parenting time schedule. Certainly, children who are excitedly waiting to see their mom or dad are crushed when that parent fails to show up. I will roll have into court so that these children are protected from any further harm.
On the other hand, if the disputes or miscommunications are minor in nature and are not adversely affecting the welfare of the children, I will advise my client to start making a journal so if we have to file a motion we have a nice chronology. I always advise my clients, “you would be amazed at some of the things that you may forget, so let’s write it all down.” Furthermore, I tell my clients, once again, to document every time the other parent is late, fails to make sure the homework is completed during their parenting time and the like. Again, with solid evidence the case is no longer a he said/she said situation and certainly enhances our chances or prevailing in NJ Family Court.