Anytime a divorce involves minor children in Tennessee the parents must submit – and the court must approve – a Parenting Plan that is intended to guide the parties in their continuing roles as parents post-divorce. What happens if you want to change the terms of your Parenting Plan after the divorce is final? A Murfreesboro family law lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby discusses how to modify your Parenting Plan in Tennessee.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is required to be part of any Tennessee divorce that involves minor children. The goal of a Parenting Plan is to ensure that both parents remain constructively involved in parenting the children after the divorce is over. In the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Code Section 36-6-404 governs the requirements of a Parenting Plan which must accomplish at least the following:
- Creating a schedule that sets forth, in detail, when the child will spend parenting time with each parent during the school year, summer break, and holidays.
- Deciding who will have day-to-day and major decision-making authority.
- Deciding who will pay for things such as medical insurance and expenses, day care, and extra-curricular activities.
- Setting the amount of child support one parent will pay to the other.
- Determining how much contact the non-residential parent may have with the child and how that contact may occur (telephone, computer etc.)
- Providing an outline for how disputes will be handled.
Once a Parenting Plan is approved by the court the terms included in that plan become part of the final order of divorce, making those terms orders of the court. Violating the terms of your Parenting Plan, therefore, subjects you to contempt of court.
Can A Parenting Plan Be Modified?
Unlike most final orders of the court, the final order of divorce is frequently modified long after it is entered into the court record. This is particularly true when the parties are raising minor children because as the children get older, circumstances can change. It is possible to modify the terms of your Parenting Plan; however, you must get the court’s approval to deviate from the original plan or you risk the penalties associated with contempt of court.
How Do I Modify Our Parenting Plan?
If both parents agree to the requested modification, the legal process will be much simpler. You will still need to petition the court and get the court’s approval; however, if you are able to file an agreed modification the court is likely to approve it if it is in the child’s best interest. If the other parent does not agree to your request to modify the existing Parenting Plan, the level of difficulty involved in getting your request approved will depend on exactly what you want to change.
If you want to change the primary residential parent, meaning you now want to be your child’s primary custodial parent, you will have to prove a “change of circumstances which materially alters the child’s well-being.” This can be a tough standard to meet given that courts are reluctant to approve such a drastic change in a child’s life without a good reason to do so. If you are the parent requesting a change in residential parent status you have the burden of proving the change in circumstances.
On the other hand, if you want to change something other than custody, such as your parenting time schedule, the court will not apply such a high standard when considering your request to modify. Instead, the court will want to know why you are requesting the change and then apply a practical analysis when considering if the modification is in the best interest of the chil(ren).
Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Lawyer
If you have additional questions about modifying a Parenting Plan in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro family law lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.