top of page

How Do I Modify Custody?

After a final custody order is entered, circumstances may change in the child’s or parents’ lives. As a result, one party may want to modify child custody or alter the parenting plan. Here, we will cover the process for requesting a modification to a child custody arrangement in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

How Do I Change My Child Custody Agreement in New Jersey?

Can I modify custody after court?

Whether the parties have formally agreed upon a child custody arrangement or whether there is a court order in place, either parent can request to change child custody and visitation if there has been a change in circumstances such that the current arrangements no longer serve the child’s best interests. 


In other words, for the party requesting a child custody modification, it’s a two-step process. First, the parent who wants to modify the order must demonstrate that circumstances have changed in the child’s life since the original order was entered or the agreement was made. 


Changes in circumstances can include one party repeatedly violating the court-ordered parenting time arrangements or withholding the child from visitation with the other parent. Other examples include the child attending a new school; one parent’s move to a new residence; a parent’s relapse or worsening substance abuse; or allegations of parental abuse or neglect. 


Next, for the Court to grant the modification petition, the moving party must show that the current child custody arrangements are not in the best interests of the child, considering the statutory best interest factors outlined in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.


To actually change the child custody order, one parent can file a petition to modify. This petition should contain a certification by the moving parent explaining why the Court should change the terms of the order or custody agreement. It should also include any exhibits supporting the parent’s request for the Court to modify the custody arrangements.

In Pennsylvania, modification of a child custody order is governed by 23 Pa. C.S. §5338. Under the statute, child custody arrangements may be modified if they no longer serve the child’s best interests. 


In deciding whether the current custody provisions serve the best interests of the child, the Court will consider a number of statutory factors. These best interests factors are set forth in 23 Pa. C.S. §5328. Among others, these factors include the parties’ ability to cooperate with one another and the level of conflict between them; the child’s sibling relationships; any parental drug or alcohol abuse; the well-reasoned preference of the child; and any other factor the custody Court may deem relevant. 


To change a Pennsylvania custody order, one parent typically files a modification petition. This petition should outline the previously-ordered custody arrangements; the proposed change to the child custody arrangements; and a statement as to why the moving party is seeking the proposed custody change. 


In other words, the petitioning party should tell the Family Court why the current custody order no longer serves the child’s best interest and why their proposed modification would be better for the child. 

Under the Pennsylvania rules of Court, the petition should also include a complete Criminal Record/Abuse History Verification Form.

How Do I Modify Child Custody in Pennsylvania?

How do I change my custody agreement?

What Happens If Parents Agree to Modify Their Child Custody Order?

When can I modify my custody agreement?

Alternatively, the parents can mutually agree to modify the order without necessarily going to Court. This can be accomplished either by the parties agreeing amongst themselves or agreeing through their respective family law counsel to change custody and/or parenting time. The parties also have the option of attending child custody mediation to come to an agreement on a new parenting plan. 


Once an agreement is reached, an experienced family law attorney can prepare a consent order (in New Jersey child custody cases) or a stipulation (in Pennsylvania child custody cases) that memorializes the terms agreed upon by the parties. This consent order or custody stipulation will then be submitted to the Family Court for final approval.


Often, parties will verbally agree on a child custody modification, but won’t bother to write down the agreed-upon change, creating problems in the future. Reducing the parties’ agreement to writing can help avoid issues or confusion down the road. It can also create a Court order that one party can enforce against the other if there are violations of the agreed-upon custody terms.


A good consent order or custody stipulation will spell out the default rules for how legal and physical custody will be modified. It may also discuss what the parties should do in the event of another dispute regarding the parenting time schedule or plan for legal decision making. 


For example, a consent order may specify that the parties will attend mediation to resolve future custody issues before filing an application with the Court. Depending on the circumstances, provisions such as these can help the parties avoid the time and expense of a lengthy child custody modification proceeding. 


Lastly, a custody stipulation or consent order may contain enforcement mechanisms should one party violate the terms of the agreement. Possible remedies for one party violating the custody agreement can include makeup parenting time; forfeiture of future parenting time; or even payment of the non-violating parent’s counsel fees. 


For instance, the parties may agree to modify legal custody and afford one parent medical decision making power for the child. If the other parent consistently violates this agreement and insists on unilaterally making medical decisions impacting the child, the consent order or custody stipulation can specify certain sanctions for this type of behavior. 


In this way, a well-written consent order or custody stipulation can outline how it should be enforced if one party consistently disregards the agreement. 


Schedule a Free Child Custody Consultation 


Legal representation can be crucial in modifying a child custody order, whether the parties file a petition in Court or come to an agreement on a change to the custody schedule. If you or someone you know needs to change their Pennsylvania or New Jersey custody order, Ormond Law is there to offer invaluable legal guidance and important strategic advice.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our child custody attorney and get the information you need to modify child custody in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

a courthouse on a sunny summer day with pedestrians passing.jpg

Email Us 24/7

We will contact you at the start of the following business day.

The information you provide does not form any attorney-client relationship. Please do not provide any description of your situation and do not ask any questions on the form. Please only provide the information the form requests. We must first conduct a conflict check and confirm there is no conflict of interest before we contact you.  By contacting us through this form, you authorize us to communicate with you by email and you agree to these terms and conditions.

bottom of page