At the end of a divorce or separation case, a family court judge issues a final decision regarding the parenting plan. Sometimes, this initial plan is based on arrangements made by the parents. Others, the judge crafts this plan to meet the needs of the child. Nothing is set in stone, however. Child and parent circumstances change, and when they do, changes to the parenting plan may be necessary.
Why Would A Judge Modify A Parenting Plan?
Several instances may warrant changes in the parenting plan. The severity of the situation determines the likelihood in which a judge will modify the plan. This is especially true if both parents are not in agreement with the changes.
Plan Does Not Fit the Child’s Current Needs
Children grow up. Because their needs change and evolve, what worked for the child when they were a toddler may not work for them in middle or high school. Along with scheduling changes, older children are also capable of making more decisions for themselves – this includes when and how they spend time with a parent.
Another situation in which the plan needs modifications is if the child requires a specialized care that the other parent cannot provide. This could include physical, mental or emotional disorders that one parent may be better fit to care for than the other.
Parental responsibilities may also be subject to change if a parent relocates. There are many reasons why a parent may relocate, including for a new job or marriage. However, the relocation must be within a certain mile radius for it to impact the current parenting plan.
Changes in Parent Schedule or Situation
Parents’ schedules may also change. For example, if a parent changes jobs and now works nights, modifications may be necessary to ensure the parent can still fulfill their parental responsibilities. Changes may also need to be made if a previously unfit parent proves they are now able to properly care for the child.
Financial obligations are a large part of parenting plans and responsibilities. Major financial changes, especially, may warrant changes to current responsibilities. If one parent loses a job or takes a substantial cut in pay, they may be unable to provide their current level of care or financial support.
Another, more serious, concern regarding changes to a parenting plan are if there are certain risks or dangers to the child in their current situation, such as:
- Any form of abuse (physical, mental, emotional, sexual)
- Exposure to situations in which abuse could occur (includes outside of the home)
- Drug or alcohol abuse in or outside of the home
- Additional health concerns
What is an Example of a Parenting Plan Change?
Some common examples of changes to a parenting plan or parental responsibilities include:
- Child lives with a different parent.
- A different parent makes decisions for the child or children.
- The court requires the other parent to pay child support.
- Parenting time changes, either day-to-day or during the holiday.
What Happens if Both Parents Do Not Agree?
If both parents agree on the proposed changes to the parenting plan, it is easier to get them approved by a judge. In cases in which they do not agree, it is in the best interest of both parties to seek the opinions and expertise of outside experts, including a family lawyer.
Mediation is also a faster, less expensive option for parents looking to resolve issues surrounding their current parenting plan. Kristen Strieker is a trained and certified mediator, focusing her efforts solely on family law cases. Through her work, parties have walked away more satisfied with their agreements, and others can too. Contact the office today to schedule an appointment.