When divorcing spouses first agree to the terms in their parenting plan, it’s based on the specific circumstances present at the time. As the months or years pass, however, things can change, and the original plan is no longer practical. When this happens, it might be time to revisit and revise your original parenting plan. Here’s why this might happen and the process to get your parenting plan modified.
Circumstances That Could Change a Parenting Plan
In Washington State, there is a distinction between minor and major changes to a parenting plan. A minor modification relates to changes in scheduling and time spent with the child. Examples of these include:
- A local move
- Changes in a parent’s work schedule
- Changes in ability to care for the child (health, new baby)
- The non-custodial parent isn’t exercising their visitation rights
A major modification relates to significant changes in scheduling as well as a change in the custodial parent. These include:
- Long distance move
- You suspect the other parent of willful neglect or abuse
- The other parent has been held in contempt twice in the past three years for violating the terms of the parenting plan schedule
Agree on Changes With the Other Parent
In Washington State, a final parenting plan can only be changed under two circumstances:
- Both parents agree to the changes, or
- The court finds that the modifications are in the best interests of the child.
In most cases, an agreement with the other parent to deviate slightly from the court order will need to be amended by the court. But anything else will require a formal modification. If you are having trouble, you may wish to use a mediator, religious leader, or parenting advisor to help you and your ex reach an agreement.
Ask the Court to Rule on Any Disputed Changes
Either or both parents can file a petition with the court asking for modification of a parenting plan. The modification must be in the best interests of the child and demonstrate legal merit.
Contested child custody modifications can become emotional and difficult for all parties involved. Some can be resolved through less adversarial options like mediation.
If you can’t resolve your issue through mediation, the court will rule on any disputed changes. Both parties will get an opportunity to submit documents and attend a hearing, after which the judge will make a decision.
Evidence Needed to Change a Parenting Plan
If you are trying to change your parenting plan, you will need to submit documentation to the court with your petition. The items you need to submit will vary depending on your circumstances and the changes you’re requesting. Some examples of evidence include:
- Actual parenting time vs. scheduled time
- Documentation of your work schedule
- Documentation of any proposed moves
- Police or court records regarding custody
- Statements from doctors, teachers, or caregivers
- Official records
- Unofficial records
Contact an Experienced Washington Family Law Attorney
If you need help negotiating a parenting plan or believe your current plan needs modification, we encourage you to enlist the services of an experienced family law attorney. The attorneys at Steller Legal Group will work to get you the best outcome from your divorce and post-divorce modifications. For a free consultation, contact us today.