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How to Change Custody in One Day

How to Change Custody in One Day

In the intricate landscape of family law, circumstances may arise that necessitate swift and decisive action, especially when it comes to the well-being of children. This blog post serves as your comprehensive guide to emergency custody orders, steering you through the intricacies of crafting an emergent application for custody change. We will provide insights into the essential components that make a compelling application, ensuring that your case receives the urgent attention it deserves within the legal system. Let’s delve into the critical steps to navigate this process effectively and protect the rights of both parents and, most importantly, the welfare of the child involved.

Wait Until the Child is in Your Care

The first tip is wait until you have parenting time before initiating a custody change. It’s crucial to establish a solid foundation with parenting time and recommend that you maximize this time to gather evidence and vital information that will support your case for a change of custody. But when I say wait until you have parenting time, I mean when you physically have the child for which you are concerned, whether there’s a court order for the schedule or it just happens to be your time will be the best time to file these steps. That doesn’t necessarily mean waiting until you have the child to plan the rest of the items, but as far as when you want to move forward, you’ll see in a few moments why you want to wait until you physically have custody of the child. And that’s whether you are a grandparent or other family member, a stepparent, or a biological parent.

Drafting An Emergent Application

Next, you want to draft an emergent application step-by-step. Now there’s a case that you’re going to need to rely on; you can find on the internet. It’s called Crowe v. De Gioia. The citation is 90 N.J. 126, 132-33. This is the lead case that empowers and explains what a New Jersey court needs to find to grant an emergent application.

There are four main factors to Crowe v. De Gioia that you need to address. First, you need to explain irreparable harm to the child – not to you, not to some other person, not to the other natural parent, but only to the child. It’s got to be immediate and irreparable. So for instance, if you believe the other parent is using drugs, neglecting the child, bringing unsafe individuals to the child, or practicing anything that could possibly endanger the child’s health or welfare, that will be sufficient for an irreparable harm.

Second, you need to show that you have an underlying claim that is settled, meaning you have a legal right to custody. If you’re the parent, that’s pretty well settled. If you’re a grandparent or a stepparent, it’s not so well settled. So you would need to address this point specifically so that you have what’s called standing or the right to be heard on this application.

Third, you have to claim that there’s a strong likelihood that you will be successful on the final application. You will just summarize by repeating that as long as irreparable harm is established, and you believe in good faith that it will be, you can claim you will likely be successful because it’s unlikely a court would rule against the person in a situation where there could potentially be harm to a child.

The last or fourth factor is that the relative hardship to the parties is not significant, meaning the harm to the other parent is not as great as maybe the harm to the child, or possibly you and your relationship to the child. So, when you’re balancing everybody involved, the other person’s not being harmed in such a way that should prevent the court from considering your application.

File On a Thursday Afternoon

Discover the strategic advantage of filing your emergent application on a Thursday afternoon. There’s solid rationale behind this timing and how it can expedite the custody change process ensuring a swift resolution.

First, to be clear, this entire application is not suggesting you do anything inappropriate or unethical, or that you fabricate or exaggerate anything. The premise of the advice is that you have a child, you have a true legal concern for the child’s safety, and you want the court to change custody at least temporarily to help the child. So if you have a custody order, you will file a motion for modification. If you do not have a custody order, you can file what’s called an FD, which stands for Family Non-Dissolution claim. And when you complete the FD application or motion for modification, attach a written explanation of the four factors I indicated before when we file them on a Thursday afternoon.

Currently New Jersey has electronic filing that was implemented in the family courts around the pandemic. And I believe that you might still be able to go into court physically and file the papers, but it’s preferred that you do it electronically. You can call the family court non-dissolution office if you don’t have a court order and ask for some guidance on how to file it. You can ask who gets addressed to. You can also get the judge’s law clerk so you can email a copy of the application when you are ready to file it. It’ll be the same process if you have a custody order and you’re filing a motion to modify.

The reason you want to file on a Thursday afternoon is tactical, admittedly. It’s not anything that’s illegal, and it’s not going to change the harm, but it’s tactical because the judges right now are required to review emerging applications on an emerging basis, meaning usually the day they get it or as quickly as they possibly can get to it. And if you have a true concern and your papers are prepared in a thorough way that does suggest and document a potential harm to a child, more often than not, courts are going to act swiftly and grant some temporary relief. They will not necessarily give you an order that changes custody permanently, nor are they likely to give you a scheduled trial to be heard on the issue. But if the judge believes that there’s a potential risk of harm to the child, experienced judges will err on the side of caution. They will usually grant the application.

On Thursday afternoons, the courts are wrapping up. They have a lot to do in a little bit of time. If they get to it, it’s either at the end of their day or they will get to it Friday morning. And Fridays are busy days. They’re often motion days. Courts are overwhelmed, so they are not likely to give you a hearing. So the interim relief is likely to be granted because they’re running out of time before the weekend rolls around and they need to address the applications. They might grant you relief since you have the child. It’s expedited and easy, and then you have at least three, four days where the child’s going to be safe in your custody.

It makes the argument more compelling when you’re arguing things like risk of harm or hardship balancing. If the child’s already there, there is no harm. You can argue consistency for the child’s benefit because he or she’s with you currently, there won’t be any pinging pong and it eliminates risk of harm. But again, Thursday is more of a timing issue because the courts have less time before a weekend to consider it. And when pressed for a decision, I believe they will err on the side of caution to protect the child and grant you a temporary order of changing custody.

The Importance of Professional Legal Advice

A consultation with an attorney ensures that you have the right guidance to navigate the complexities of New Jersey divorce and family law. I believe that these matters are incredibly difficult to handle on your own. Family law matters, divorce matters, and custody matters are very sensitive and very emotionally intimate. It’s not a money judgment issue, it’s not a tenancy landlord issue. Often, you want to have somebody who’s independent to guide you and advise you because of the emotions and difficulty of handling on your own. Filing an emergency motion for custody is a big step, and a lawyer can help you determine and navigate the process and make sure that you’re doing it appropriately for all parties involved.

Permanent Custody Change

A permanent custody change is a path to a better future with a positive impact on your child. As a result of this application being successful, you’ll have an opportunity for a permanent custody change, especially if under this application you believe there’s a risk of harm. You’ll remove the child from that negative situation while ensuring legal compliance, and you can go on to seek that permanent custody that will nurture a healthier, more fulfilling parent-child relationship.

While the parent that you’re filing the application against may be upset or hurt by the nature of your claim, hopefully you can show the merits of the application and help everybody involved. A change in custody can offer great stability and support for your child, creating a nurtured environment for growth and development. And lastly, embarking on a change of custody allows for personal growth and a chance to change and provide the best possible future for your child. Ultimately, that’s what everybody involved here should be focusing on.

If you are seeking assistance with an emergency custody order or a permanent change of custody, our team would be happy to offer a free consultation to discuss how we can help. Reach out today to get the ball rolling.


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