Parenting Plans set out all the essential terms of custody, time-sharing and child support following a divorce. There are many big issues such as custody and support.
There are also smaller, though equally important, issues such as schools, religious preferences, vacations, recreational activities, school activities, and all the other issues surrounding raising a child.
This article refers to changes to these other issues. Changes to child custody and support are each deserving of their own discussions.
In any event, any one of the many terms of a Parenting Plan may need to be modified. Many parties are able to reach agreement on these changes to the Parenting Plans with little to no conflict. Other times, the Parenting Plan can be the most difficult part of the divorce.
Whether the Parenting Plan was agreed upon amicably or whether it was court ordered after heated dispute, there may come a time that the Parenting Plan needs to be modified. The way this is done will depend upon the parties and the nature of the divorce.
In those divorces where the parties can work together, modifying the Parenting Plan is as easy as drafting up the changes and submitting the new Parenting Plan to the Court for approval. Whether or not the parties should get legal assistance in this process will depend on the circumstances. If possible, it is often beneficial to have an attorney draft the document to insure that the wishes of the parties are indeed reflected in the language.
Once the new Parenting Plan is worked out, it will be submitted to the court for approval and signature. Typically, you or your lawyer will have to arrange to get the signed order from the judge's office and take it to the clerk for filing. Some, though not all judges, will require a hearing depending on the nature of the changes.
That is the best case. Unfortunately, many parties do not have a working relationship. Many more are actively hostile toward one another. Changing the Parenting Plan in these cases will require the filing of a Motion to Modify the Parenting Plan. The Motion will set forth specifically what the party wishes to change. Equally important, the Motion must set forth the reasons for this change.
In reviewing the Motion and the Response, the Court will be looking at the best interests of the child(ren). This is the most important and often the only consideration. However, other issues related to the parties themselves may be considered. Two common examples, though there are many, include financial hardship and interference with employment associated with private schools, extracurricular activities, hobbies and the like.
In short, if you are seeking to modify the Parenting Plan, seek agreement from the other party first. If that does not work, think long and hard about why you are seeking the change. The Parenting Plan may be changed, but it will not be changed without good reason in the absence of an agreement between the parties.
Filing is the easy part. Modification of the Parenting Plan is often fiercely resisted by the other party. It is far less expensive and stressful if the parties can come to some agreement, in which case a stipulated order modifying the Parenting Plan can simply be entered with the court.