When Should You Modify Your Parenting Plan?
The Purpose of Parenting Plan Modifications
When parents develop their parenting plan, the goal is to create a plan that will not only stand the test of time but which is comprehensive enough to anticipate most of the child's needs. Consequently, your parenting plan will include a number of provisions from visitation schedules to how disputes will be resolved.
When creating your parenting plan, you should include:
- Day-to-day visitation schedule
- Vacation schedules
- Holiday sharing plans
- Plans for special dates, such as birthdays
- Rules for taking children out of town on vacation
- Emergency protocols
- How expenses that fall outside of child support will be handled
- How coparents will communicate with each other
You should also include information on how important decisions will be made, such as those involving the child's health care needs, religious upbringing, educational plans, how children will be disciplined, and even plans for how you and your coparent will share college expenses when the time comes.
Despite meticulous planning on the part of the parents and the guidance they receive from their attorneys and the courts, sometimes things come up that you could not have anticipated or planned for. Additionally, circumstances change as time goes on, and children under 10 have vastly different needs than teenagers. Furthermore, you or your coparent may remarry, have additional children, get a new job, or need to relocate. All of these things can necessitate a parenting plan modification.
A parenting plan modification aims to help coparents adapt to a significant change in their family's circumstances and ensure their child's needs are met and their best interests protected.
Circumstances When a Modification May Be Necessary
So, what types of circumstances warrant a change in a parenting plan? Generally speaking, a modification will only be granted in situations where the change in circumstances is both significant and lasting. This means that a temporary problem or something that doesn't truly affect a parent's ability to adhere to the existing plan will not be good grounds for a modification.
Reasons you may need to modify your parenting plan include:
- Your child's needs have substantively changed, such as their educational or health needs
- Your child's schedule has changed in a way that makes the current custody schedule inadequate
- A parent has lost their job or changed jobs
- A parent's health (mental or physical) has changed
- A parent or the child's living situation has changed
- A parent and/or the child has relocated out of the area
A modification may also be necessary if one parent struggles to follow the current parenting plan. In some cases, a parent's change of circumstances can cause them to have difficulty meeting certain aspects of their parenting plan, such as adhering to a specific visitation schedule. When appropriate, both parents can agree to adjust the parenting plan to accommodate the new parent's situation. In these cases, modifications often help coparents maintain a more positive relationship post divorce.
How to Modify Your Parenting Plan
If you believe a modification is necessary, you should reach out to an experienced family law attorney familiar with processing parenting plan modifications in Tennessee. To have your plan modified, you will need to petition the court. Even in cases where both parents agree to the modification in question, it still must be submitted to the court and approved by a judge.
When considering a modification, the courts may consider the following factors:
- The child's relationship with both parents
- The parents' ability to adhere to the existing parenting plan
- The parents' ability to provide for their child
- The mental and physical health of both parents
- The current needs of the child, physical and mental
- The child's school records
If your child is 12-years old or older, the courts may factor in the child's preference when looking at modification requests. Ultimately, the court's priority is protecting the child's best interests. If a modification request is not clearly in the child's benefit, they are unlikely to approve the modification.
For help developing your new parenting plan, review our blog, "Making the Ideal Parenting Plan During a Custody Dispute."