Creating a parenting plan is a major step for any parent raising children with an ex, and it can be a relief to put this process behind you. However, things change over time, and you may wonder if you can change that plan.
For better or worse, changing a parenting plan could be more complicated than you might think.
What makes it so difficult?
Washington laws dictate that courts will only modify parenting plans in certain situations: if facts arise that the court was unaware of at the time of the original order or if a substantial change has occurred and modification is in a child’s best interests.
In terms of a substantial change, it is important to know what this means. Some examples of what it might look like include:
- Long-distance parental relocation
- Parental job loss
- Incidents of violence, abuse or neglect
- A parent’s multiple failures to comply with the parenting plan
These changes can make an existing order impossible or impractical.
On the other hand, things like changes in residential schedules that do not affect a child’s primary residence or personal challenges a parent is facing may not warrant a parenting plan modification.
In other words, assuming you can quickly draw up a parenting plan now with the hopes of changing it later is a mistake. Stability can be crucial to a child’s well-being; keeping a parenting plan as consistent as possible is a priority for courts.
Tips parents should consider
It can be a costly mistake to assume you can just change your parenting plan when you see fit. Thus, consider a few things before agreeing to anything.
First, be diligent when creating the original order. Take your time and consider not just what is best for you and your child today but what will be best for you in the future. Work with an attorney to ensure the terms are fair and reasonable.
Another critical thing to consider is that it can be easier to change an order if you and the other parent agree to the changes. If you and your ex are on amicable terms, you can discuss filing a Petition to Change Parenting Plan with your lawyers.
Changing a parenting plan can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Knowing your options ahead of time can help you protect yourself and your child.