4 Top Reasons to Modify a Parenting Plan in Washington
The need to modify a parenting plan can happen at any time. Schedules and routines change. Other things can happen to cause a need for change, too. In this article, we put together our top four reasons to modify your parenting plan in Washington state.
This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice on modifying a parenting plan in Washington state, The Offices of Alesha Struthers offers free consultations
How Hard Is It to Change a Parenting Plan in Washington State?
How hard it is to modify your parenting plan depends on how big of a change you need to it. Washington state classifies parenting modifications into two main categories: major modification and minor modification. Major modification would include changing custody and removing parenting time, while minor modification would be changing visitation days or times.
Related: Parenting Plan Mediation in Washington State: What Is It?
What Are Minor Modifications?
Minor modifications can generally be easily made. Usually, the parents agree on these changes, and a judge quickly reviews them and signs the request into order once adequate cause is proven. Parents are still required to prove adequate cause even if both parents agree to the change.
Minor modifications like extending vacation times, changing pick-up and drop-off times, and switching visitation days are often already agreed upon and, therefore, in the child's best interest. Both parents can dispute the other parent if they do not agree to the modification. If your requested changes result in a schedule that exceeds 90 overnight stays in a year or 24 full days in a year, it is considered a major modification.
What Are Major Modifications?
Major modifications are more difficult to prove. These are substantial changes. The parent requesting a major modification must prove adequate cause and that they are filing with the best interests of the child in mind and not to punish the other parent. The parent filing needs to have the evidence to support their stance once their trial date comes. The judge will determine if the modification is warranted or not. Any disputes would also cause this modification to take time.
Feelings are Fleeting, Parenting Plans Are “Forever”
Maybe not forever, but until your shared minor children become legal adults. As a parent, you must keep in mind that whatever parenting plan modifications you or the other parent (or both of you together request) need to be signed in to an order by a judge. However, things can change unexpectedly. You should modify your to reflect any changes that may occur.
With that being said, you can only make changes to a parenting plan once every 24 months (two years). Any additional changes, aside from emergencies, may be denied. Parents who try to make too many changes could become scrutinized for instability. It's best to attempt to have a parenting plan in place that is as prepared as possible to last for years.
Below, we have our 4 top reasons to modify a parenting plan. However, if you are creating a parenting plan, this list can also help create a lasting parenting plan ready for whatever changes that may and can occur.
Allegations of Abuse During Parenting Time
Modifying your parenting plan due to allegations of abuse is a major parenting plan modification. Washington state requires abuse allegations to be proven and filed in good faith. Many types of abuse constitute a major change in a parenting plan. Suppose the child is in a detrimental situation for their health, whether in their residence or during the other parent's parenting time. That requires a major change to the plan. Other forms of abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and substance abuse by the parent, also create the potential for a major modification.
The moving party may file an immediate restraining order when filing for a major modification because of the alleged abuse. This may also implement a temporary emergency order immediately to protect their child while they wait for a trial date so that the judge may review the evidence and make a final decision.
Related: Your Guide to Guardian Ad Litems in Washington State
Schedules Change After Your Washington State Parenting Plan Was Finalized
Even the best thought-out parenting plans can't prepare for everything. If you or your former spouse end up with a change in employment that results in a schedule change that no longer supports the parenting plan, it's necessary to update the plan to fit the new schedule. This creates a minor modification. Modifying your parenting plan to reflect your new schedule is essential to ensure that both parents receive the appropriate time with their child.
Schedule changes aren't just for parents. If the child's schedule changes, that is a reason to modify your parenting plan. For example, if the child begins homeschooling or virtual schooling and the best time for visitation is no longer the regularly scheduled time, a minor modification would change the parenting plan.
The Other Parent Is Refusing Parenting Time
If the other parent refuses their parenting time, you can file to discontinue visitation. This generally falls under abandonment or refusal to provide. The other parent may lose their parenting time. You would be required to prove the other parent's abandonment. Abandonment requires the parent to refuse parental functions knowingly or have abandoned the child for over one calendar year. This is a major modification.
Co-parenting Is Going Great, and We Made Agreements Outside the Plan
This may come as a surprise to many, and while we love to hear when parents co-parent successfully, the parenting plan is a legally binding order. Both parties are required to follow it as if it were the law. If both parents have become more flexible when the child visits the other, the parenting plan needs to include that flexibility.
Modifying your parenting plan to include agreed-upon flexibility protects both parents and helps ensure that they each retain their parenting time. If something were to change, an issue arose, or an argument happened, the courts can only enforce what the parenting plan has determined. Agreeing to modify your parenting plan makes it an easier task to do.
Need to Modify a Parenting Plan in Washington State? Free Consultation:
Changing a parenting plan can be a hassle, especially if the other parent doesn't agree with the change. If you need to modify your parenting plan, The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers offers free consultations.
Disclaimer: This publication is not legal advice. It is intended as legal information only. For legal advice specific to your needs, contact the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, PS at 800-972-0411.
Posted August 2022.