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How to Make Changes to a Parenting Plan

Many divorced parents find themselves in the same boat: their parenting plan just doesn’t work anymore and their ex won’t cooperate to change it. If this sounds like you, you may be able to change it. But you need to know the rules.

A Parenting Plan is something that the Court adopted when you were divorced (or in the case of unmarried parents– when the paternity judgment was entered). It represents a snapshot of the child’s best interests. The Plan forms the baseline for future assessment of whether a substantial change has occurred.

At a minimum you have to show the Court that a material change in circumstances affecting your child’s welfare has occurred since the last court order that adopted a Parenting Plan. Then and only then will the court decide whether to grant your requested change. Circumstances that existed prior to the last court order do not constitute a material change of circumstances. For example, if you want to move to Texas because you have supportive family there, but your family was there prior to the last court order– it doesn’t count. If the Court agrees to hear your case, however, that evidence may be relevant.

No. There just has to be a material change affecting your child’s welfare. For example, a change in school may qualify as a material change, even if it is not harmful to your child.

The Court must first decide whether the change will be in your child’s best interests. This means that the court will consider factors that affect your child’s physical and emotional well-being. There are lots of ingredients that go into that soup including the following. Just remember, this list is not exhaustive:

  • Your child’s relationship with you, their siblings and any other person in your life. The Court will likely have concerns if your relationship with your ex is toxic.
  • Your child’s adjustment to home, school and community and how any change will affect that especially if you want to relocate more than 100 miles away.
  • Your child’s wishes, but only if they are of suitable age and maturity.
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved including your current partner.
  • Whether a parent is likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. Of course, there are exceptions, for example, if you are acting in good faith to protect your child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse. However, your protective conduct must be narrowly tailored to prevent your child from witnessing domestic violence or becoming a victim.
  • Whether there has been a significant history of domestic violence towards, or around the child while in a parent’s custody.
  • Your motives for wanting a change or if you have threatened the other parent or your child with punishment or harm unless your ex agrees to the change.
  • Whether either parent has been convicted of false reporting of child abuse or neglect or coercing another person to make one. Do make sure that any reports to CPS are well grounded.

Typically, a proposed move to another state would qualify as a material change. Just remember, that the court must consider evidence in addition to the best interests of the children evidence, when a move out of state or 100 miles away in state.

Read more about this at our blog post, Relocating with Minor Children.

Yes, you must wait for a period of one year after the court’s first order regarding parenting time. There are exceptions to this if you are able to prove that your ex is endangering your child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.

Before a judge will grant your request for a hearing, you must attend mediation. These services are free through the Conciliation court.

Read more on our blog post, Conciliation Court and You.

The critical question is whether your requested change is in your child’s best interests?

Message from McCarthy Family Law​

McCarthy Family Law is a full service family law firm that services all family law issues. If you are going through a divorce or have questions about filing for divorce, we are here to assist you. Please call us at 520-623-0341 to explore your options. Please also check out our Facebook page for the most up-to-date information and Court notices. Turning Stress Into Solutions®.

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