Modification of Parenting Plans
When a parenting plan is finalized by agreement or a court decision, formal modification of that parenting plan requires court action. Unless changes to the parenting plan are agreed, Washington courts tend to highly favor the provisions in the original parenting plan, and therefore, absent agreement, certain legal standards must be met before a parenting plan modification case can move forward.
As a result, courts have developed a system for classifying child support and parenting plan modifications in order to establish a threshold for evaluation of any changes. Modifications can be classified as either major modifications or minor modifications, and each of these have their respective threshold requirements.
Major parenting plan modifications
Requests for a change of primary custody is a major parenting plan modification. The parent requesting to change the parenting plan will need to prove that their request falls within one of the following categories: mutual agreement; the child or children have already been integrated into parent’s household; the present environment of the child or children is detrimental to their well-being or safety; and/or that the defending parent has been found in contempt of the existing parenting plan for failure to comply with the provisions of the plan at least twice within the last three years.
During a major modification, the party moving to modify the parenting plan must also prove the following:
- A substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or custodial parent since the time of the entry of the original parenting plan
- the child’s best interests will be furthered by a modification to the parenting plan
- any harm caused by the change of custody is outweighed by the benefits of that change
While changing or modifying a parenting plan can be difficult and require a significant amount of evidence, it is possible to achieve with an experienced divorce attorney. Our family law attorneys are very knowledgeable in both the establishment of parenting plans and the modification of those plans.
Minor parenting plan modifications
A minor parenting plan modification is one which does not propose significant alterations to the original parenting plan. Minor modifications will NOT include changes as to where the child spends the majority of their time and do not seek to adjust time spent with the child over 24 full days per year.
Rather, minor parenting plan modifications can include changes in residence or schedules which make the original parenting plan impractical or even impossible to follow. They can also include changes that adjust the schedule to work better for the child and the parents. Examples of minor modifications can include;
- Change in location of pick-up/drop off for the child
- Changes in times for pick-up/drop off
- Transportation arrangements
- Changes in child care or supervision
- Changes or clarifications to previously agreed upon items that the parents had placed within the parenting plan
- Minor changes to the existing residential schedule
To meet the threshold for a minor parenting plan modification, a parent needs to show a substantial change of circumstances for either themselves, the other parent, or the child(ren).
Parenting plan modifications can be difficult and complex to navigate. However, with our assistance at the Family Law Department at Anderson Hunter, we can together ensure that your child grows in a situation where they may thrive. Our legal expertise and vast experience in handling child custody, child support, and parenting plans, as well as divorce cases, helps us to provide you with the legal counsel that you need for your family.
Contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys today.
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