Revising a parenting plan or custody agreement may become necessary.
Divorces that include a custody agreement, or a parenting plan for children will often need revision at some point, due to any number of factors. It can be an amicable and agreed upon revision or a contentious disagreement that goes to trial. There is some variation depending on where you live, but in general, every state will require you to follow a strict process when revising a custody agreement or parenting plan.
First Scenario: If Both Parents Cooperate
Even when each parent is cooperative, you might need to change the custody agreement due to new circumstances. One parent might move away or start a new job that conflicts with their visitation time. The circumstances will need to be significant enough to warrant a modification to the original agreement, as judges might not allow small adjustments even if both parents agree to it.
Step One: Get an agreement
Work out a new agreement between each other. It can be something as simple as changing around the times for switching custody, but make sure you iron out all the little details so each side is in full agreement with the new plan.
Step Two: Fill out a new custody agreement
Fill out the necessary paperwork for a new custody agreement. Explain the change in circumstances that require the agreement to be modified. Each parent needs to sign the completed paperwork before it can be filed.
Step Three: Submit the signed agreement
At the hearing with a judge, they will review the new agreement. The judge might deny it if it is not in the best interest of the child, or if the new agreement is not for significant enough reasons. For the most part, you can expect them to sign off on the new agreement. Make sure you pick up a copy of the final judgment from the clerk.
Second Scenario: If Parents Do Not Cooperate
The other scenario is when you want a change to the custody agreement due to a conflict with the other parent where they will not cooperate or agree to any modification. In this scenario, you will need to follow a longer process.
Step One: File a petition for a new agreement
You will need to fill out the necessary paperwork to file a petition in court to modify the original custody agreement. You will need to include the reasons why you are seeking a revision to the current agreement. Legitimate reasons include problems involving alcohol or drugs, mental health or physical health, and physical, mental or sexual abuse.
Step Two: File petition for modification
Work with an experienced family law attorney to file a petition for modification. Include a copy of the original parenting plan, the new petition you filled out and any supporting documents and submit everything to the proper clerk at court.
Step Three: Notify the other parent
Have the other parent served with the petition before scheduling any date with the court — do not notify them yourself. The other parent then will have a set amount of time to serve you their response to the petition, with the time depending on where you live. If they fail to respond by the deadline, you can file a special motion for a default judgment where you will need to fill out new forms and file them with the clerk.
Step Four: Schedule a trial or hearing
If the other parent did not respond within the allotted time or responded in agreement to your petition, you can schedule a final hearing with the judge. If they responded in disagreement you will have to file a notice of a trial. Serve the other parent with a notification of the date, time and location of the hearing or trial.
Step Five: Attend mediation if required
You might be required to attend a mediation with the other parent to see if you can come to an agreement without having to go to trial. The mediator should help you draft agreed upon parenting plan if you can agree.
Step Six: Attend the trial
If the petition goes to trial, the parent who filed the petition will present their witnesses and supporting documentation first. After the first parent is finished presenting their case, the other parent gets to present their witnesses and documents.
Step Seven: Pick up the final judgment
The judge might not issue a final judgment right away. They might require one of the parents to attend parenting classes or something of that nature first. When the judge does issue a final ruling, pick up a copy of the judgment from the clerk and follow the new agreement.