Once a Parenting Plan is entered by the court, it is effective until the minor child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. During this time frame, the plan can be modified, but only under certain circumstances. With more than four decades of experience as a child custody lawyer, I can guide you through the complicated process of modifying custody.
When Can a Parenting Plan be Modified?
To requesting a change in a Parenting Plan you must initiate a legal procedure by filing a Petition to Modify. Then you must send the Petition to the other parent and set a court date. The Petition to Modify may request several actions such as:
- a change in the residential placement (physical custody) of a child
- a change in the residential time (visitation) of the non-residential parent with the child
- a change in any of the other provisions in a parenting plan.
A modification may be a “major modification,” a “minor modification,” or an “adjustment.” These are legal terms and each one requires certain allegations and a different standard of proof as explained below.
A request to change the residential placement or physical custody of a child to the non-residential parent is considered a major modification. These requests are usually not favored by the court and will not be granted unless the court finds proof that certain facts have arisen since the current plan was entered that were unknown to the court at the time of the prior plan.
The petitioner must show:
- A substantial change of circumstances has occurred involving the child or the non-moving party, and
- The requested modification is in the child’s best interests (the parent’s best interests are not considered here), and
- The modification is necessary to serve the child’s best interests.
Important Note: If one parent has military duties that impact his or her parenting obligations, those duties shall not be considered a substantial change of circumstances sufficient to modify a prior parenting plan without further complicating factors.
Using the three standards above, the court will not modify a parenting plan unless at least one of the following factors are shown:
- The parents agree to the modification
- The child has become integrated into the petitioner’s family with the consent of the other parent in a way which is substantially different than the current parenting plan
- The child’s present environment is detrimental to his or her physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm which might be caused by a modification is outweighed by the advantages the child will receive
- The court has found the non-moving parent in contempt of court at least twice within the past three years because the parent has failed to comply with visitation provisions in the current parenting plan
- The parent has been convicted of custodial interference in the first or second degree under Washington State law.
Minor Modifications and Adjustments to a Parenting Plan
These changes do not involve the residential placement or custody of a child. Instead, requests for a change in the parenting time plan, visitation schedule, or other non-residential changes are considered minor modifications or adjustments.
In most minor modification or adjustment cases, the petitioner does not need to show any of the major modification factors listed above. Instead, the court may order adjustments to any of the nonresidential aspects of a parenting plan based upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstance of either parent or the child and that the adjustment requested is in the best interests of the child.
If You Need to Modify Your Parenting Plan
Requesting a modification of child custody or visitation rights is a complicated process. It takes a skilled custody attorney who understands what qualifies as a substantial change in circumstances to prepare and present a strong Petition to Modify.
With more than 40 years of experience as a child custody lawyer, Gregory L. Davies knows what it takes to bring a successful modification petition. Let Attorney Davies be your advocate and guide you through the modification process.
Call us now at (425) 259-2755 or complete our simple form to set up a free initial consultation. Contact us today to discuss your child’s situation and determine if you can bring a Petition to Modify and protect your child’s future. We also offer virtual meetings if you prefer.