When your divorce was finalized, part of the settlement was your parenting plan. In many cases, parents work on this plan together, sometimes with legal assistance. When they cannot agree to terms, the court steps in and makes decisions for them.
Parenting plans are created based on everyone’s life at the moment of divorce. Sometimes, impending future changes are considered, such as an upcoming change in residence or career, but even that is considered immediate in the context of the divorce. As life changes, agreements and plans must change, too. If you are finding it difficult to keep up with your original parenting plan, it may be time for a modification.
To modify a parenting plan, you have a few options:
- You can create a new plan with your ex. You and your former spouse always have the option to alter your parenting plan as you see fit. Using your original plan as the foundation, you can look at which parts are no longer tenable, and make alterations from there. Once you’ve decided on the new plan, put it in writing, and submit it to the courts. From there, it will become the officialized plan until it is time to alter it again.
- You can attend mediation. Mediation is a way of creating a new plan yourself with help from an outside party. This legal professional is trained to help opposing sides communicate and listen to one another. If things get heated, they can help cool the temperature of the room. As legal professionals, they can also help you see things you overlooked ensuring that you cover all necessary aspects of the agreement.
- You can go back to court. If you are unable to make an agreement with your spouse when you divorced, you may not be able to today, either. You should always attempt to work out a new arrangement with your former spouse first. When that fails, you must plead to the courts to alter the original plan. You will need a trusted, skilled attorney on your side who can help argue your case and show the court that the original orders no longer work.
Ultimately, a parenting plan can be altered for any reason, provided both parents agree to the modifications. Unless you are taking the matter to court, you don’t need a strong legal argument to change your plan. However, you also don’t want to find yourself constantly changing the plan every time life alters just a little bit. It’s easier on everyone to have a plan that will consistently work over long periods of time. Here are four signs that it may be time to change your original parenting plan.
- A Parent Marries Someone New
There are many things to consider when creating a parenting plan. You want to satisfy the emotional needs and familial bonds of those involved. Additionally, you must consider the pragmatism of your choices. Sometimes, one parent needs less custody simply because they don’t have the same support system as the other. They don’t have nearby family to help, and they are on their own with the kids. If that parent remarries, it opens more opportunities to see the children. They now have the support of their new spouse and maybe even that spouse’s close family.
Conversely, a new marriage could require less time with the kids. If you were to marry someone who travels for a living, often taking you along, you may find yourself at home less, unable to keep up with the original parenting plan.
- Either Parent Gets a New Job
Ideally, a transition in careers means that only the job changes, and everything else remains the same. Realistically, this is an abnormal scenario. Changes in occupations often mean changes in commute, which can eat into your time at home. This can call for an alteration in visiting schedules. Perhaps the job demands a completely different schedule, shifting you from morning to evening work. This would also call for a change in the parenting plan. Even if travel and work hours remain almost the same, it takes time to adjust to big life changes. The stress of a new job alone could throw off your balance, requiring a whole new approach to your schedule. If a new occupation is making your parenting plan impossible to follow, it’s time to make a change.
- Either Parent Has Moved
At the best of times, a full, 50/50 custody split is difficult to manage. It assumes that kids move between parents during the week, which means distance is important. Each parent must have easy access to the child’s school, extracurricular activities, friends, hangout spots, church, etc. California is unlikely to grant a 50/50 split for parents who are over 20 miles apart.
Even if your current custody split is less than 50/50, it will be even more difficult to manage if a parent moves. Custody and visitation arrangements must be made in the child’s best interests. It’s sometimes hard to sacrifice your need to see the kids, but you must remember that they are individuals with lives of their own. When a move has taken you further from the kids, rework your plan around their lives and schedules. Remember the places they go and the people they see. Everyone will be better off if they are not burdened by the new distance. Conversely, if you move closer, this can allow you to have a greater degree of custody.
- The Relationship Has Changed
Divorce is not just the loss of a spouse. It is also the fundamental alteration of your family. Sometimes, people suffer severe mental distress from their divorce. This may cause them to grow estranged from the kids as they attempt to heal and recover. Even if all visitations are rigidly kept, there can still be a lack of connection.
Over time, this parent can mend themselves and reconnect with their kids, growing stronger bonds. The parent and the child are more eager to see one another, and the adult is more willing to carve out time for their little one. When this happens, everyone benefits when the kids spend more time with this parent. This can be a wonderful reason to alter the existing plan.
If you need help adjusting your current parenting plan, contact our office. Through a free consultation, we may be able to help you discuss your options, giving you a plan to move forward. Our number is (916) 299-3936, and you can contact us online.