Divorce involves making important decisions that will affect the family for years. Few of these decisions are more important than a parenting plan that determines custody, visitation, schedules, and other vital details that address the needs of the children.
Over time, however, those needs will change. Significant milestones for the kids include going to school full-time, but another occurs as they reach their teen years. Parents’ lives also change, perhaps taking a new job with more or less flexibility or even in a different city.
These changes are a part of the natural flow of family life and, ideally, are best for everyone. Amid the change, it is wise for coparents to revisit the parenting plan and modify it to reflect current circumstances or plan for logical changes that will take place when the child becomes a teenager. Modifications can happen more than once but can only occur every two or more years unless the court says otherwise (moving is considered a valid reason).
Minor tweaks were ongoing to address changes to family and may be a verbal agreement between coparents. A parent seeking a formal modification of the official custody arrangement or visitation schedule must involve the courts. Modifications are relatively straightforward if:
- Both parents agree with the modifications.
- The child is comfortable with modifications.
It’s worth noting that any changes to parenting made outside of court are not legally enforceable.
What if the parents disagree?
Modifying the parenting plan is much more complicated when the parents disagree. For instance, a mother may wish to take the children and live closer to her family, or a father may be concerned that a mother does not provide a safe and nurturing home life.
The parent can file a motion with the same court where they filed for divorce. The court then sends a copy of the motion to the other parent, notifying them of the petition to modify the order. If the parent The court will then review the case and determine if a hearing is necessary. With or without a hearing, the judge will rule on allowing the changes because they best serve the child’s interests while still upholding the co-parent’s parental rights.
It’s best to be prepared
Discussing parenting plan modifications with a family law attorney before filing the paperwork is always wise. They can provide insight into the case, draft the modification and defend their client’s and the child’s best interests if there is a hearing.