When the parents of a minor child decide to divorce, many of the most important issues in the ensuing divorce are related to how the parents will co-parent the child post-divorce. Ideally, the parents will share the parental responsibilities as well as parenting time with the child equally after the divorce. While it sounds great in theory to share parenting time, it can be challenging in practice. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro child custody lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses what you can do if your shared parenting time agreement isn’t working.
Parenting Time Basics
Archaic terms such as “custody” and “visitation” are no longer used by most states, including Tennessee. Instead, the term “Primary Residential Parent (PRP)” and “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP)” are used to refer to the parent with whom the child lives most of the time and the parent who exercises parenting time (visitation) with the child, respectively. At the time of a divorce, the parties must submit an agreed upon Parenting Plan to the court or the court must dictate the terms of the plan if the parents cannot agree. 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
Formerly referred to as “joint custody,” the concept of shared parenting typically refers to a Parenting Plan that splits the time a child spends with both parents equally. It will also usually involve the parents having equal authority to make important decisions regarding the child, such as where the child will attend school and what medical treatment the child will receive. While a shared parenting time agreement is ideal for the child, it can be difficult for the parents to maintain in practice. Among the common problems with implementing a shared parenting agreement are:
- One parent wants more (or less) time with the child after the divorce.
- One parent moves too far away from the child’s school.
- The child gets older and wants to live in one place most of the time.
- The parents cannot agree on a major decision.
Can I Modify the Shared Parenting Agreement?
The good news is that it is possible to modify the Parenting Plan approved by the court. How easy it will be to modify the agreement depends largely on whether your former spouse agrees to the changes. If you both agree to the requested modifications, you will still need to file a petition with the original court but getting the judge to approve the modifications will be much simpler than if your former spouse objects to any changes. Keep in mind that everything the court approves must be in the child’s best interest even if there is a mutual agreement.
If your former spouse objects to modifying the agreement, getting the modifications approved will be more difficult. If the requested changes will change who is listed as the PRP, you will have to prove a “change of circumstances which materially alters the child’s well-being.” In other words, if the original Parenting Plan lists both parents as the PRP and you now want to be the only PRP, the above standard applies. If your request to modify involves anything other than changing the PRP (such as adjusting the parenting time schedule or making you the ultimate decision-maker) the standard is not quite as high; however, you will still need to convince the judge that there is a good reason for the modifications and that approving them would be in the best interest of the child.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Custody Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about what you can do if your shared parenting time agreement isn’t working, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child custody lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.