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Exploring Your Options: Modifying Parenting Plans

What Is the Goal of the Parenting Plan?

Parenting plans and time-sharing schedules are extremely important documents for divorcing or separating couples in Tennessee. These legal documents outline the practical details regarding how parents will share physical and legal custody of their children, including visitation schedules, pick-up and drop-off arrangements, decision-making processes, communication between parents, and more.

The primary goal of a well-crafted parenting plan is to create an environment where both parents can effectively co-parent through ensuring consistency of rules, expectations, behavior, and communication between households.

A parenting plan should be designed to prioritize the welfare and best interests of the children involved. With the changes that accompany divorce or separation, children can feel destabilized and uncertain. But with a strong parenting plan in place, parents and children can move forward more securely and confidently. Ultimately, a good parenting plan will protect the child’s best interest and welfare while also allowing both parents to participate actively in their child's life.

Reasons a Parenting Plan May Require Modification

However, sometimes a parenting plan can fall short of this goal. Even with the best intentions, things may not always pan out the way parents expect, or changing circumstances may render a parenting plan suddenly inadequate. This can be incredibly stressful, and parents may have no other option but to go through the modification process and have their parenting plan legally updated to suit their family's changing needs.

Parents may need to re-visit their parenting plans for a number of reasons, including:

  • A change in the work or school schedule of either parent or the child
  • A change in the living arrangement of one or both parents
  • A parent is moving to a different area
  • A change in the financial status of either parent
  • The child's needs and interests have changed over time
  • Changes in a parent's physical health, mental health, or ability to care for their children properly
  • Other extenuating circumstances

Additionally, parents may find that there are things they wish they had included in their original parenting plan but which they overlooked at the time. Depending on what those matters are, a legal modification to the plan may be helpful or necessary.

How to Pursue a Parenting Plan Modification in TN

Generally speaking, modifications must be focused on ensuring that the child’s welfare and wellbeing are protected, and the party requesting the modification must adequately prove that the modification is necessary. To do so, the parent usually has to demonstrate that they (or their child) has experienced a significant and lasting change in circumstances and that that change clearly necessitates the modification.

To pursue a parenting plan modification, an individual must file a petition to modify the existing plan with their local court and serve it to the other parent. The court may also request additional information, such as tax returns, paystubs, proof of income, or any other necessary documents in support of the modification request.

Can You Modify a Parenting Plan in Tennessee Without Going to Court?

Usually, when we are asked this question, people are asking if their modification will have to be litigated in family court. The good news is that you do not automatically have to go through litigation when requesting a parenting plan modification in TN. However, if the parents involved are unable to agree to the terms of the requested modification (either on their own, with the help of an attorney, or through another method like mediation), the court will have to step in and make the decision for them.

Alternative methods for resolving disputes over parenting plan modifications which can help you avoid court litigation can include:

  • Collaborative negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration

Do I Need to Consult an Attorney?

In Tennessee, pursuing a parenting plan modification can be a complex process. It is advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney to help navigate the legal system. An skilled attorney can use their knowledge and resources to provide parents with sound legal advice. They can also offer assistance in negotiating a fair and equitable modification agreement for both parties. Attorneys also have the capacity to draft agreements that accurately reflect each parent's wishes. Overall, working with an attorney provides peace of mind that all legal matters have been considered and addressed in a legally enforceable manner that protects your rights as a parent.

If you are considering pursuing a parenting plan modification, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney first. Call Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC at (731) 256-0023 to speak with one of our child custody attorneys. We can help you understand your options and guide you in determining if pursuing a modification is right for your situation and your family.