If you have children, you must resolve custody issues between yourself and the co-parent after a divorce or separation. It’s crucial to determine child custody and parenting responsibilities, and a parenting plan is an essential document that can guide you in navigating a complex family situation with your children.
However, if circumstances change, you can request modification with the court.
Can You Change a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court?
The answer is “yes”. You can change the custody agreement without going to court if you collaborate and reach a mutual consensus. There cannot be any details both parties don’t agree on. If you and the co-parent agree on post-decree modifications without court involvement, craft your proposed agreed modification order on your own or with the help of an attorney or legal counsel and submit it to the court.
If you don’t agree, you need to go to court. The judge will decide whether the modification keeps the child’s welfare in mind.
Like many divorce-related legal issues, each state has its own methods and regulations for filing post-decree petitions to modify court orders. For example:
Reasons to Change a Custody Agreement
Relocation of Parents
To accommodate the new living situation, it may be necessary to modify the custody arrangement in the event that one parent plans to relocate to a different city, state, or country. This could mean altering the schedules for visits or even rethinking who has primary custody, as it might be hard to follow the parenting schedule.
Changes in Parental Conditions
A modification to the custody agreement may be necessary in the event of significant changes in a parent’s life circumstances, such as a remarriage, a new job, or a change in lifestyle that could impact the child’s well-being.
Concerns for the Safety of the Child
It may be necessary to modify the custody agreement to safeguard the child in the event that there are reasons to be concerned about the child’s well-being or safety while in the care of one parent, such as evidence of neglect, abuse, substance abuse issues, or a dangerous living situation.
If your child is in urgent danger, you should call the police and request an emergency custody order.
Violation of Custody Terms
The aggrieved parent may seek a modification to enforce the existing custody agreement or modify its terms if one parent consistently violates its terms, such as repeatedly canceling visitation or denying the other parent access to the child. If this is the case, you can file a petition to modify the child custody order, and you have to present evidence in court that demonstrates your claim.
Other reasons may include:
- Shifts in work or school schedules
- Preference of the child as the child might want to spend more time with the non-custodial parent
- Changes in a child’s developmental or special needs over time, such as requiring additional medical care, therapy, or educational support.
- Alienation at home could hurt the youngster’s close-to-home prosperity and relationship with the other parent
How to Modify a Parenting Plan or Custody Order
- Carefully review the existing parenting plan or custody order to understand its terms and provisions.
- Determine the grounds for modification based on your jurisdiction’s laws.
- Attempt mediation or negotiation if required. Mediation can be helpful in reaching an agreement without going to court. However, this requirement may vary depending on the state and the circumstances.
- Consult with an attorney to get legal advice and to be guided through the process
- Prepare the petition by outlining the requested changes to the parenting plan, the grounds for modification, and the supporting evidence or documentation.
- File the petition with the appropriate court, usually the same court that issued the original parenting plan or custody order.
- Serve the other parent with a copy of the filed petition and any accompanying documents.
- Attend court hearings if it is required. During the hearings, present your case, provide evidence, and explain why the modification is in the child’s best interests.
- Obtain a court order modifying the parenting plan if the court finds that the requested modification is warranted and in the child’s best interests.
Get Help With Your Parenting Plan
The parenting plan requires careful contemplation of all the factors involved and personalizing them to the children’s and parents’ individual needs. Seeking advice from knowledgeable legal experts or mediators in family law can help ensure the plan follows all legal guidelines while prioritizing the well-being of the children.
You can download our free parenting plan template or use our step-by-step form builder to create a customized document.