A family court judge will issue a final decision on your parenting plan at the end of your divorce or separation case. This plan can be based on arrangements that you and your co-parent agreed on or based on a plan crafted by the judge to meet the needs of your child.
While this is considered the final plan, family courts understand that circumstances change and modifying the parenting plan may be necessary.
What might trigger a post-decree modification?
Even long after a divorce, families continue to go through different phases and changes. As a result, certain aspects of your parenting plan may require adjustments to meet your family’s current needs. Many post-decree modifications are prompted by common changes such as:
- Your children growing older, and the current plan not fully accommodating their needs.
- One parent relocating to a new home, making it challenging to follow the existing plan.
- One parent having a new work schedule and being unable to fulfill their responsibilities in the parenting plan.
- One parent losing their job and struggling to meet their financial obligations to their children.
- The safety of the children being compromised while residing with one of the parents.
It is also common for parenting agreements to be modified because the current plan is simply not being followed. It is crucial that your family’s actions and behavior align with the parenting plan. It’s always better to properly document any modifications rather than risk potential legal complications for not adhering to the plan.
Can we make changes to the parenting plan without going to court?
Most courts across the United States allow parents to mutually decide on post-decree modifications, just as they allow parents to propose their parenting plan at the beginning of the divorce process. Many parents create their own parenting plans and modifications independently or with the assistance of a neutral third party like a mediator.
This method is only effective if parents are willing and able to work together to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then parents may need to resort to court intervention.
If you do reach an agreement on post-decree modifications outside of court, it is important to have it in writing. Ensure that the agreement is clear, leaving no room for confusion. Depending on your situation and location, you may need to request that the court amends your order in accordance with your agreed-upon modifications. It is advisable to consult with your attorney or a family law practitioner specializing in post-decree modifications to ensure you are taking the correct steps to implement your agreed modifications.
What if we cannot reach an agreement on post-decree modifications?
If parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, court intervention may be necessary. Similar to other legal matters related to divorce, each state has its own procedures and policies for filing post-decree petitions to modify court orders.
Before heading to court
In some states, there may be a waiting period before proposing modifications. For example, in Texas, the waiting period is usually one year from when the prior order or settlement agreement was established. Additionally, in Texas, a significant change in circumstances must occur for a modification to be considered, and that change must have transpired after the date of the last order or agreement.
To propose a modification, a parent usually needs to provide evidence supporting the need for a change. In Illinois, for instance, if a parent wants to modify the parenting time arrangement, the court will review various factors surrounding the modification to determine the children’s best interests. The parent should be prepared to present evidence supporting a change in the arrangement and demonstrating that it is in the children’s best interests.
Demonstrating a change in circumstance
The specific types of evidence that can be used to support a post-decree modification vary from case to case. Some documentation that may serve to demonstrate a change in circumstance includes:
- Proof of a parent not fulfilling their financial responsibilities to their children.
- A new schedule of school activities that do not align with the current parenting schedule.
- Evidence of a parent’s new job that will impact the current plan.
- Proof of a parent’s intention to relocate and how it will affect the plan.
- A journal with certified entries detailing when issues occurred.
- Testimonials from individuals close to the family, such as doctors or teachers.
Once again, it is essential to consult with your attorney to know exactly what types of evidence will be accepted by the court to support the modification.
The laws and procedures regarding modifying a parenting plan can be complex. Thumbuddy To Love is committed to providing you with the best tools and resources for organizing your shared parenting. The information provided here is not intended to serve as legal advice regarding modifying your own parenting plan. Please consult with a family law professional in your state and county for more information on modifying the parenting plan.