Parenting 101

Additional Information:

What is a major modification of a parenting plan?

After a final parenting plan has been entered in court (following a divorce, paternity action, or third party custody case), one person may seek to change the residential schedule of the child. Generally, a major modification of a parenting plan refers to a court proceeding where one parent (or in some cases a third party who has custody of a child) seeks to change the primary residence of a child. For instance, if you have your child every other weekend and on certain holidays, you might request the court to change the parenting plan to where you have the child during the week and your ex-spouse has the child every other weekend. This would be an example of a major modification of a parenting plan.

Can I, or my spouse, change the parenting plan?

Yes. But there are certain legal standards that must be met and acknowledged by a court/judge. Major modification of a parenting plan is a two-step process. First, the moving party (in this context “moving party” means the parent who is asking the Judge for a change in the parenting plan) must show the court they have “adequate cause” to change the parenting plan. Generally, this means the parent requesting the parenting plan be changed has to provide a written declaration or affidavit showing facts which, if proven, would form the legal basis for a judge to change the parenting plan. This written statement must be accompanied by a motion to the court. There are different rules in courtrooms across the state pertaining to the exact procedures and rules to obtain a hearing on adequate cause and an attorney should be contacted in order to assist you in starting your case.

What happens after a judge finds adequate cause?

If adequate cause is found, that means a Judge has made a legal determination that you may move forward for a full hearing on custodial arrangements for the child. It is important to know that just because a judge has found adequate cause to move forward on your case, does not mean your parenting plan has changed. Instead, a full hearing will be required and in some counties, a trial date will be set for as much as one year out. Temporary orders are available to address residential arrangements between the time of filing your petition for modification and a trial date. Consult a Renton Attorney one in your area to discuss the legal requirements of adequate cause.

What does a Judge consider to determine if I can change the parenting plan?

Under 26.09.260 Revised Code of Washington, a court may not make a major modification to a parenting plan unless a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or the nonmoving party and the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child. In addition, the law provides that in applying these standards, the parenting plan shall stay the same unless: (a) the parents agree to the modification, (b) the child has been integrated into the petitioner's family with the consent of the other parent, (c) the child's present environment is detrimental, or (d) the court has found the non moving parent in contempt of court.

What do I need to do to show the Judge the parenting plan should be changed?

Modifying a parenting plan is legally complex, as Judge's favor continuity in the child's life. If you are considering seeking a change in the residential arrangements of your child, you should identify facts which occurred since the date your last parenting plan was entered which meet the legal standard identified in the previous paragraph. Generally, Judges will not consider facts known to you prior to the time when your parenting plan was entered. It is also important to remember that your allegations for a major modification must relate to the life of the child or of the primary custodial parent – changes in your own life do not form the legal basis for attempting to modify the parenting plan.

Will the modification change child support?

If the primary custodial home of the child is changed, then your child support will likely change too. Generally, if you were the parent receiving child support when you have the child the majority of the time, and now the court has ordered your ex-spouse to have the child the majority of the time, instead of receiving child support, you will now be paying child support. The opposite is true as well, if you used to pay child support when your ex-spouse had the child (or the other parent to the child when you never married) the majority of the time, and now the court ordered you to have the child the majority of the time, you will now be the person receiving child support. Contact a Renton Lawyer or lawyer in your area to discuss how child support is affected by a change in the parenting plan.

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