When Should Parents Modify Their Parenting Plan?
While establishing a child custody plan is often a highly stressful period for parents during a divorce, rest assured that no arrangement is set in stone. In fact, the court often accepts and expects parenting plans to fluctuate over time to accommodate a child’s evolving needs and growth, not to mention changing circumstances of one or both parents.
This isn’t to say that child custody modifications are always necessary, but in many cases, the judge will see fit to modify the terms of your current parenting plan should one parent request it. Keep in mind that the only requirements for obtaining a child custody modification are the following:
- One parent requests the modification. It isn’t required for both parents to be onboard. At the end of the day, the judge makes the final call.
- The judge agrees. If the judge decides that the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child, they will see fit to approve it.
5 Reasons to Consider Modifying Your Parenting Plan
Adults and children alike understand that life’s seasons bring new changes—some planned; others unplanned. Generally speaking, the court will not agree to change a child custody arrangement if the current plan is working well for both parties—and more importantly, the child.
However, changes in situations or circumstances can present new challenges or needs regarding your current parenting plan. In these cases, the court may grant a modification to ensure that the arrangement between coparents remains in the best interests of the child. Consider these 5 common reasons why a parent might request a child custody modification.
#1. A parent is moving out of the area.
The court will consider modifying a child custody arrangement if one parent ends up physically relocating out of the area. This is especially critical if the relocating parent is the custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives primarily), as the court will likely need to grant the noncustodial parent physical custody if the child wishes to remain in the same area and stay enrolled in the same school district.
Generally, a court will consider physical relocation a valid reason to modify an existing child custody arrangement if:
- The relocation places an undue burden on the noncustodial parent.
- The relocation makes it difficult for the current parenting plan to resume as usual.
- The relocation will have a significant negative or positive impact on the child’s life.
The judge will likely consider additional factors when making the decision as well, such as the motivation of the parent who is relocating, how the relocation will affect the visitation schedule, whether the parents communicated with one another regarding how to make the relocation work in the child’s favor, and whether or not the move will interrupt the child’s life.
#2. A parent hasn’t followed child custody terms.
As you can imagine, failing to follow court-ordered terms of a parenting plan results in negative consequences for the non-offending parent. Sadly, the child can also suffer if a parent can't cooperate with an existing child custody arrangement. In this instance, the judge will likely see fit to modify the custody terms.
If one parent consistently disobeys the court-ordered parenting schedule, the court will consider the following factors before reaching a decision:
- Why was the current plan not followed?
- How have the parents communicated with each other?
- How is the situation affecting the child?
If a parent’s failure to follow the parenting plan is negatively affecting the child, the court may issue a modification to the current arrangement.
#3. The child’s needs have changed.
As we all know, children grow up—often in the blink of an eye. As a child grows, their needs tend to evolve with that growth, especially when it comes to their health and educational needs.
Growing up entails evolving mental, physical, and emotional changes that often present a new and unique set of needs that differ from those in adolescence. For example, a thirteen-year-old boy will require different things than he did as a toddler.
Whatever the situation, your child’s growth should never be the only factor that’s evolving. Just as parents evolve to support their child as they grow up, a parenting plan should accommodate your growing child’s needs, too.
#4. The child has developed different wishes.
If you and your coparent ended your marriage when your child was still young, it’s possible that your child will develop wishes of their own with age. If your child was just a baby when you got divorced, it’s unlikely that they had the mental capacity or voice to develop or express a desired outcome.
But as your baby grows into a toddler, an adolescent, and ultimately a young adult, these preferences will likely develop and change with time. A judge will almost always take your child's wishes into account, assuming they are an appropriate age, when considering child custody modifications. After all, both the parents and the court should share the same goal of putting the child's needs first.
#5. A parent’s circumstances have changed.
Aside from physical relocation, there are various ways in which a coparent’s circumstances might change.
In many cases, the court will see fit to modify an existing child custody arrangement if any of these changes compromise the child’s best interests.
Here to Keep Your Child’s Best Interests at Heart
At Rubenfield Law Firm, we know how critical it is for parents to keep their little ones safe. There’s nothing like the bond between a parent and their child. That’s why we’re committed to keeping your little ones’ best interests at heart. Our skilled child custody attorney is here to put your children first, just like you.
Whether you’re currently undergoing divorce proceedings or are seeking a modification to your parenting plan, we’re here to help. Our firm has earned a lasting reputation for personalized representation and compassionate legal counsel for parents and families, and we have proudly served the Long Island community for over 25 years. When it comes to family, don’t settle for less than superior legal representation.
Are you in the midst of a child custody arrangement or modification? It’s crucial to have the right team in your corner. Call our firm at (631) 777-7200 to request a consultation with a skilled divorce attorney today.