Appellate Court Refuses to Adjust Child Custody Order after Parties’ Divorce

Couples with children who go through a divorce often bring up several points of contention that will need to be addressed in the final divorce order. Divorcing parents often request orders for child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division, among other things. When circumstances change after a divorce is finalized, one of the parties may motion or petition the court to modify the divorce orders to more fairly incorporate those changes into the parties’ legal obligations. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently ruled on an appeal filed by a father, which sought to modify the custody and child support provisions of his divorce from his ex-wife.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a woman who divorced the defendant several years ago. At the time of their divorce, the parties shared a two-year-old daughter. To resolve their divorce, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, which gave the mother primary placement of the child, with the father having parenting time every other weekend and one weeknight per week. The parties also agreed on an amount of child support that the father would pay to the mother.

Since the entry of the final divorce order, the father has alleged that circumstances have changed and the order should be changed. For a New Jersey custody and support order to be changed, the moving party must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances to justify the modification and that any changes would further the best interests of the child(ren) involved. The father argued that the mother’s move to a new town with her new husband affected his daughter’s quality of life, while also alleging that the mother took a higher-paying job with her new husband, and requesting support be recalculated with the parties’ updated incomes.

The trial and appellate courts both rejected the defendant’s arguments. While acknowledging that the parties’ custody arrangement was not serving the child well, the courts found that the arrangement was working poorly because the parties were so contentious, and not because of any change in circumstances that would warrant the changes. When considering the income and child support arguments, the courts found that the mother was not actually employed with her new husband, and was acting as a stay-at-home mom. Because of this, the courts found that the father failed to make a valid case for reducing his support obligation. As a result of the appellate court’s decision, the parties’ settlement agreement will remain unchanged.

It is Possible to Modify Divorce and Custody Orders

When New Jersey courts enter orders concerning custody and support in a divorce, the courts only use the information available at that time to make their decision. After orders are entered, circumstances change, and modification of a final divorce order may be appropriate. If the income, living situation, criminal history, or relationship status of one party changes after a divorce, the other party may have justification to seek a modification. If you are interested in modifying a custody or divorce order, the experienced New Jersey family law attorneys from the Law Office of Jeffrey R. Brown can help. Our New Jersey divorce and custody attorneys accept clients throughout central New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 732-613-0066 today


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