What is a parenting plan modification

A parenting plan is a formal child custody agreement, typically agreed to or established by a court, that governs the relationship parents have with a child. However, as children grow older or as situations change, you may need to implement a parenting plan modification.

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What could modify a parenting plan?

Many factors could modify a parenting plan. Here are some of the most common reasons that people seek modifications:

  • Children are growing older. The current plan may not cover their needs in areas like attending school programs, working, or addressing special needs.
  • Someone is relocating. If one parent is moving across the country, maintaining the current schedule could be incredibly difficult or expensive.
  • A parent has a changing work schedule. Most agreements understand the importance of work and how that could impact one’s ability to meet their responsibilities under a parenting plan.
  • A parent has lost their job and cannot meet their financial obligations. In the same way as the previous entry, parenting plans understand that adults may not have the money to support children.
  • The child’s safety is at risk. One or both parents could be abusive, develop drug addictions, or otherwise create unsafe environments.
  • One or both parents disagree with proposed revisions. Simply objecting to changes could be enough to modify a parenting plan, although this usually requires having objections that are grounded in facts, evidence, or logical reasoning.
  • The modification will formalize a schedule substantially different from one previously agreed to, and under which the child has been integrated into the family of the other parent. In other words, agreeing to one schedule does not inherently allow for later changes at the expense of one party, and you can expect courts to take a hard look at any modification of parenting plan guidelines that include such a thing.
  • Whether or not the current residence is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health in such a way that harm caused by modifying the schedule is outweighed by the advantages of the change. In layman’s terms, doing what’s best for the child often outweighs other considerations, including the child’s own desires.
  • A parent has willfully abandoned the child for an extended period or refuses to perform their parental functions. This is similar to the previous entry but focused entirely on the parent’s behavior. Put another way, parents need to meet their obligations and have no right to partial or total custody if they fail in those.
  • If it is necessary to prevent the physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of the child, or if there is a history of domestic violence. Most courts are reluctant to allow any situation where children must stay with an abusive parent.

What are Major Parenting Plan Modifications

What is a parenting plan modification that others would consider significant? Major parenting plan modifications are substantial changes to an existing plan, such as going from split custody to weekdays/weekends, or even total custody for one parent with limited (or no) visitation for the other. These usually happen when one parent is unable, unwilling, or unfit to meet their obligations.

For example, if evidence surfaces that a mother has an addiction and emotionally abusive, a father may petition to remove the child from the mother’s custody. On the other hand, if the father is moving away to a new job, he and the mother may both agree that the mother should have custody except for the occasional visits.

How to prove major parenting plan modifications

The evidence required for proving a major modification is necessary depends on whether or not all parties are in agreement. If both sides agree that a change is for the best and there is no compelling reason to stop it, most courts (or other governing agencies) will nod, give approval, and process the paperwork.

However, if the two sides do not agree to a change, you usually need to present evidence to back up your reasoning. This could include proof of financial burdens, evidence of abuse, or other materials that justify a significant change. A family lawyer can help you determine whether or not your evidence is enough to warrant a significant change.

What are Minor Parenting Plan Modifications

Minor parenting plan modifications can be either short-term or long-term modifications but consist of keeping the agreement mostly intact. For example, if the mother’s hours at work change, she may ask the father to keep custody for a different part of the week. If this isn’t a burden on him and he agrees, the change is made.

If both sides do not agree, it is possible to enforce a minor change, usually by arguing the necessity of it.

How to prove minor parenting plan modifications

Requirements for establishing minor modifications are similar to those for major modifications and depend, in large part, on individual circumstances. For example, a mother may argue that she needs to have different work hours to meet her financial obligations as a mother, so she simply cannot pick up a child before a particular time.

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How much does it cost to modify parenting plans?

Costs vary by area and could change over time. However, if you are filing in the same county, costs are usually less than $60 for the filing fee, plus additional charges for copying papers, serving papers, or parenting plan attorney fees.

If you are filing in a different county, the filing cost is usually around $200, plus other added fees.

Low-income individuals may be eligible for waived fees.

Can Sole Custody Be Changed To Joint?

Yes, any parent or parents within Washington State can seek to modify their custody agreement by filing the correct forms with the court. This allows them to modify any aspect of the custody agreement, including adding joint custody following one of the parents’ altering their lives in some beneficial way. Custody petitions always need to specify the custody changes that the parent(s) are seeking.

How to modify a parenting plan

Deciding on your own without court

In many cases, you can decide on minor modifications without going to court as long as both sides agree. The parenting plan may, itself, permit these with no need to file the changes at the court. However, depending on the agreement, you may need to visit court anyway.

Going to court

If you need to go to court (usually for major changes), you can expect to have an Adequate Cause hearing. This is your opportunity to explain the change you want and layout any relevant evidence. If you cannot prove you have good reasons for a change, the judge will almost certainly dismiss the request.

Depending on the nature of the request, judges may grant it after the Adequate Cause hearing, schedule a second hearing, or even schedule a trial.

Can CPS Change Custody Agreement?

Yes. CPS can change the custody agreement or even begin a dependency case if they believe your children are in danger. If the court believes your children are in immediate danger, CPS will ask for temporary custody and remove the children from you or your spouse’s home.

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Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.

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