When Should You Modify Your Parenting Plan?

When you divorce, courts look at your present circumstances to make child custody decisions. They consider the finances of each parent, their distance, the child’s emotional attachment, and many other factors. Ultimately, they want to meet the “best interest of the child.”

Life, however, happens. Things change, especially these days. People are more willing to move and change careers than ever before. If you are having difficulty following the original parenting plan, ask yourself if it is still viable. Has life changed so much that strictly following the plan is no longer feasible? If so, it is time to renegotiate this agreement.

Here are some indicators that you may need to update the original parenting plan.

One of You Has Moved Further Away

In California, 50/50 custody is usually granted only to parents who live less than 20 miles apart. Even at that distance, an equal split can be very difficult. Imagine, then, how hard it is when one parent moves further away. It can be a real strain on the parents, trying to manage their lives along with their children’s.

It can also be hard on the kids. It’s important to remember that custody and visitation schedules are made in the child’s best interests. Continually moving them across long distances disrupts their lives, too. Consider their schooling, friends, church, extracurricular activities, and more. If you or your former spouse has made a permanent move, it is probably time to reconsider your original parenting plan.

Employment Has Changed

Moving jobs or getting a promotion is often cause for celebration, but it also alters your life. Your commute may change, giving you less time at home. Perhaps you work very different hours, keeping you out of the house all night. The change may be personally satisfying, but it can make following your parenting plan unreasonable.

Before running to change your parenting plan, give yourself time to settle into the new routine. Ask your former spouse to help you get adjusted. You may find that the original plan can still work with some minor tweaks. You also need time to decide if this new career is right for you. Your new routine could become miserable, and you could find yourself going back to your former job.

On the other hand, you could love your new position, and it simply won’t work with the original parenting plan. In that case, it is time to renegotiate the plan, possibly rebuilding it from the ground up. The same is true when your former spouse chooses a new career path.

Either Parent Remarries

At first glance, a new marriage seems irrelevant to the original parenting plan. Ostensibly, the plan is designed to give each parent a fair, reasonable amount of time with their children, benefitting everyone.

Sometimes, however, parenting plans are made pragmatically. They can be drafted according to each parent’s resources and support. For instance, one parent may have many family members to call upon for help, while the other is usually alone with the kids. Adding another adult to the family can change this dynamic. The loner parent now has more support, from both their new spouse and that spouse’s network. A change like this can open more possibilities, making it easier to spend more time with the kids.

The Relationship Has Grown Stronger

Normally, people aren’t in the best emotional space when going through a divorce. Sometimes, the divorce is the result of someone’s mental or emotional struggles. Perhaps when the original parenting plan was drafted, one parent was somewhat distanced or estranged from the children.

Time, however, can heal a multitude of wounds. Even adults can go through periods of rapid growth and healing. In that time, they might reconnect with their children, building strong, healthy relationships. When this happens, it could be in the child’s best interests to have more time with this parent, calling for a change in the original parenting plan.

Updating the Plan

You have a few options for updating the parenting plan. You can take the matter back to court. This is a lengthy, expensive process, and it takes decisions out of your hands. If you and your ex can agree that the plan must be modified, you might be able to work the matter out together.

Your next option is rewriting the plan yourselves. Using the original plan as a basis, you can discuss which parts no longer apply and make revisions. Once you’ve finalized your agreements, you can put them in writing and submit them to the courts.

The safest way to rework your plan is through mediation. A legal professional will meet with you and your ex, and, acting as a neutral third party, help you develop a new agreement. No matter how well the two of you get along, there are aspects of the plan you could overlook. Having an experienced third person there can keep you from submitting an incomplete plan for finalization. If disagreements do occur, the mediator can help you communicate and create solutions.

If you need help crafting a new parenting plan, contact our office. We focus on creating amicable, beneficial solutions for divorced and divorcing couples. You can reach us online or call us at (949) 558-2624.

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