Children grow up fast and as they grow their needs, desires, goals, and interests all change, as does the relationship with their parents. A child might be more attached to her mother during infancy and childhood, the child may become more attached and develop a better relationship with her father during adolescence. Children of a committed couple can simply choose which parent they would like to spend more time with while children of divorced couples must comply with orders the court enters. These orders can direct that they live primarily with one parent and may even dictate how often they see the other parent. These orders are contained in a parenting plan.Parenting plans may be modified as circumstances change and the child grows. Sometimes it can become a difficult process to modify a parenting plan, especially if the other parent is objecting to changing the plan.
Modifying the Parenting Plan When Both Parties Agree
Before discussing how to modify a parenting plan through the court, it should be mentioned that parents can in virtually every circumstance modify a parenting plan by agreement. One possible exception, for instance, is if one parent has put the child’s life in danger in the past. Courts are eager to encourage divorced parents to work together and communicate one another about their children’s needs and take measures to meet those needs.
For example, suppose a divorced couple has one child in common. At the time their parenting plan was entered, the child was only two years old and the parenting plan called for each parent to exercise visitation with the child for 1 week at a time (that is, mother would have the child for one week, and the father would have the child for one week). But now the child is ready to start school and father lives in a different school district than the mother. The parents can agree amongst themselves to alter the parenting plan to allow the child to reside with the mother during the school year with the father having some weekend visitation in exchange for the father getting extended visitation periods on school breaks and during the summer or any other agreement the parties wish to make.
To protect yourself in the future, it is always recommended that you inform your attorney that you have made a change to the parenting plan by agreement. A written agreement should be drawn up that memorializes the changes you are making. Both parties should then sign the agreement along with their attorneys, if any, and the original signed agreement should be filed with the court. This prevents the other parent from attempting to claim later that there was no agreement and you are attempting to interfere with his or her parenting time.
What To Do If The Other Parent Does Not Agree to Modify the Plan
If the other parent will not modify the parenting plan, you must get an order modifying the parenting plan from the court. Unless there is an immediate emergency (i.e., the child’s life or health is in immediate danger), the court will not modify the parenting plan without holding a hearing and allowing both parents to present their respective views. Even if a court does modify a parenting plan without a hearing because of an emergency, the court will need to hold a hearing shortly after modifying the plan to determine whether the plan should remain as modified or if it needs to be changed back.
In determining whether to modify a parenting plan, the court is to make decisions it believes are in “the best interest of the child.” It will generally modify parenting plans when there has been a substantial, unanticipated change of circumstances and the modification of the plan is in the best interest of the child. “Substantial” means that it must be of a permanent or near-permanent nature; “unanticipated” means that the situation was not or could not have been anticipated by the parties or the court at the time the original parenting plan was ordered.This is a rather ambiguous standard and leaves the court with a great deal of discretion when deciding what parenting plan is appropriate. What this means for you, the parent seeking to modify a parenting plan will need to convince the court that the modified parenting plan you are seeking is in the best interest of the child and that the previous parenting plan no longer serves the child’s best interest.
Modifications of parenting plans are granted by the courts, but you must have compelling evidence to support your contentions and request. An attorney can help evaluate your situation and advise you as to whether your motion is likely to be denied or granted. If the attorney believes you have a good chance at being successful in your motion, your attorney can help you locate evidence and witnesses to support your motion and present this information to the court.
Contact Our Caring and Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney Today
If you or someone you know is in need of a modification, schedule a consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney. Our family law attorney at Law Office of Erin Morse will help you discuss your case, your options and rights, and help guide you through this process. We proudly serve our clients throughout Orlando and the surrounding areas; including Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Lake, Brevard and Osceola counties. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at (407) 900-7451 or completing a contact form.