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Modifying Your Existing Parenting Plan

Upon your divorce or separation case, a family court judge will decide on your parenting plan based on the children’s needs. Co-parenting arrangements, however, can experience unforeseen circumstances that require modification or changes to the existing plan. 

Some circumstances that can warrant a post-decree modification include:

  • The current plan does not accommodate the needs of your older children
  • A parent’s work schedule changes precluding them from meeting their responsibilities outlined in the parenting plan.
  • One of the parents has lost their job and cannot meet the financial obligations of the children.
  • A parent relocates to a new home, and following the plan is difficult based on the new location.
  • The children’s safety is at risk while residing with one of the parents.
  • A shift in the child’s needs relating to health, age, etc.
  • The current parenting agreement is not being followed, and the document needs to reflect the real living situation.

There are instances where co-parents can decide on their post-decree modifications amicably, often using a neutral third party like a mediator. All agreements need to be in writing. Depending on where you live, you may need to have the court formally amend your order. In any state, keeping your existing parenting plan up to date and accurate is crucial in the event of legal complications for not following the plan.

Mediation or family court intervention becomes necessary when parents cannot agree on post-decree modifications. Every state has different policies and procedures for filing post-decree petitions that modify court orders. Some states require you to wait a year from the date of the prior order agreement. Other states will require attempts at arbitration with a mediator before becoming involved. If the post-decree modification case reaches the family court, a judge will typically require some documentation to demonstrate a change in circumstances.

Documentation can include:

  • Evidence of a parent who is not fulfilling their financial responsibility for the children
  • A change in the schedule of school activities that don’t correlate with the existing parenting schedule
  • Proof of a parent’s new job is impacting the plan
  • A journal with certifiable entries that detail a parent’s note about what issues occurred and when
  • A reporting of actual parenting time versus scheduled time
  • Records showing the police, or the court had to enforce custody orders
  • Medical, work, school, criminal, or other official records
  • Testimonials from people close to the family, like teachers, doctors, or caregivers
  • Photos, social media posts, texts, emails, and other unofficial records

A family law attorney knows what types of evidence a family court will accept to support a parenting plan’s modification.

Requirements to modify child support recalculation can occur about every three years, and every US state has child support enforcement programs. Otherwise, there must be evidence of significant financial changes to modify child support. Some courts calculate this change by percentages, while others require evidence of involuntary job loss. Child support can also receive modifications due to a child’s medical expenses, increasing by a certain amount. 

Staying organized and prepared during the modification process is essential, which can be difficult in this emotionally challenging and draining time, particularly when a parent alleges abuse or some other safety concern. If this situation presents itself, the court may order an evaluation and prioritize the request. In the absence of potential abuse or other threatening behavior of the children, scheduling a modification hearing depends on the court’s calendar and prioritization methods. Parents can wait a few weeks or a few months unless they request an expedited hearing because of immediate risk. Parents need to follow the most recent parental plan while waiting for the family court to review and render judgment on modification requests.

Whether through agreement, mediation, or court order, parenting plan modification can accommodate changing family lifestyles, including revision of parenting schedules, safety concerns, financial compliance, decision-making authority, etc. The process can be emotionally challenging and draining. To have desirable outcomes, you need a qualified legal support team to help represent what is best for the interest of your children and sound legal advice from a family law attorney. Please contact our Houston office today or schedule a consultation to discuss your legal matters. We would be happy to help you and welcome your call.

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