Often, after parents have divorced or have otherwise obtained a Court ordered Permanent Parenting Plan, one parent or both will want to change the children’s schedule or some other aspect of the Permanent Parenting Plan. A Permanent Parenting Plan is a Court order which addresses all aspects of custody and parenting including the children’s schedule, child support, identification of which parent or parents may make decisions regarding certain aspects of childrearing, etc. A Murfreesboro family law attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what you need to know about changing your parenting plan.
There are two ways to modify, or change, a Permanent Parenting Plan:
- Parents may change the schedule and most other aspect of a parenting plan by agreement without Court involvement or obtaining a new Court Order. If parents for any reason want to change the schedule for the children, they may do so by agreement. We always suggest that parents keep these agreements in writing if possible, even if it’s only by text or email, as this will help clarify things later if the parents find themselves in Court. The Permanent Parenting Plan is by no means a jail sentence, and parents are free to work with each other regarding the custody and scheduling for their children as long as they are in agreement. In fact, Courts appreciate and encourage unmarried parents to work together on all parenting decisions. It is the overall belief of judges and attorneys that most of the time, it is in the bests interests of children for their parents to work together and come to parenting decisions without conflict. If the parents are happy with a schedule that is different from the schedule contained in the parenting plan, the Court does not need to be involved for them to execute any schedule which suits them and is in the best interests of their children. It is only when one parent wants one thing and the other parent wants another that Court involvement is sometimes necessary.
- Under certain circumstances, a parenting plan may be changed without agreement from the other parent if a Court modifies the parenting plan. Either parent may petition the Court and request that the parenting plan be changed in some way. For most aspects of the plan, this requires some type of circumstance which has changed since the entry of the current Parenting Plan, and the Court or Judge must ultimately be persuaded that the changes sought are in the best interests of the children. Parents should carefully decide whether to file this type of Petition. If the Court declines to change the parenting plan, in some circumstances (but certainly not always), the Court may order the parent who brought the court case to pay the other parent’s attorney fees. This possibility puts some added pressure on parents to give a good deal of thought to petitioning the Court for modification.
In making a decision of whether to modify a parenting plan, the Court may consider most any evidence which is relevant to the best interest of the children. This type of evidence might include the following:
- each parent’s relationship with the child or children;
- each parent’s history of providing for the needs of the children;
- whether each parent encourages the children to have a good relationship with the other parent;
- the moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent;
- the children’s relationship with other members of each parent’s household (such as siblings, step-siblings, step-parents, etc.);
- the child’s wellbeing and physical surroundings at each home;
- the importance of continuity in the child’s life; evidence of abuse of any kind;
- the character and behavior of each parent and others who frequent the home of each parent;
- the preference of any child over 12; the employment schedule of each parent and the accommodation of these schedules;
- and whether a parent has paid court ordered child support.
We often hear parents express a belief that children over a certain age may choose which parent to live with. This is, in most every situation, not the case. The Judge may listen to a child’s preference (as long as the child meets the age requirement for this), and may give more weight or deference to a child’s preference the older the child is, but the child does not determine which parent they will live with until they are no longer a minor. Additionally, in these situations, parents must weigh the short and long term emotional toll to the child of testifying in Court against any benefit that would be gained by the testimony. After hearing all proof from each parent and arguments of their attorneys, the Court will make a decision whether to change the parenting plan based on the law and the circumstances of the case.
In the final analysis, changing a parenting plan can be complex and expensive, and a person desiring to change a parenting plan should consult with a reputable attorney to increase the chances of success. Many have been filed that should not have been because the unsuccessful outcome was foreseeable and an experienced attorney in this area of the law can save you thousands of dollars wasted.
Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about changing your parenting plan, contact a family law attorney in Murfreesboro, Tennessee at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.