After a Final Parenting Plan has been entered, the courts typically disfavor modifications to that plan, unless warranted. Washington statute requires the moving party (person who is seeking the modification) to make a showing of adequate cause before a modification of a Final Parenting Plan can proceed. A parent may file a petition requesting either a major modification, which requests a change in the custodial parent, or a minor modification, which requests changes to the existing visitation schedule.
Major Modification - Essentially, when trying to change the custodial parent, the moving party is asking for a major modification to the parenting plan and must show that either there has been a substantial change in circumstance (relocation, change in employment, etc.) and that the child’s best interest will be served by the modification. In addition, the court must find the present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical or emotional health, and a harm which may be caused by a change in the parenting plan is outweighed by the advantages to the child.
Minor Modification - A moving party may ask the court for a minor modification, which does not result in a change of the primary custodial parent, and where the changes to not exceed twenty-four (24) full calendar days in a year.
Contested child custody matters are among the most difficult matters in family law. The process can be especially difficult without the guidance of an attorney to assist in determining the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Clearly, these matters can prove emotionally difficult for family members and especially for the children involved.
In working with an attorney, you will have assistance in exploring the possibility of an agreed resolution versus a contested action. Quite often in contested child custody and/or parenting plan matters, a Guardian ad Litem may be appointed to represent the best interest of the child. A Guardian ad Litem may be requested by either party and/or appointed by the court to investigate the parental fitness of one or both parties, as well as represent the best interest of the child. It is important to work closely with your attorney during the preliminary stages of a contested child custody matter. This is especially true during the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem, selecting an appropriate counselor for the children, as well as addressing any protection orders or temporary orders which may be required for the safety and support of the family. While the process is often extremely difficult, there are times when a change in custody or modification to the parenting plan is truly in the best interest of the child.
In addition to modifications to custody or visitation, child support typically is addressed simultaneously with those actions. A party can also bring a request to modify the child support only. Modification of child support matters are typically based only on the financial information of the parties. It is important to have all current financial information available so the child support worksheets can reflect all the proper deductions and contributions of the parties.
Ms. Murphy has experience in both major and minor modifications to a parenting plan or custody, and child support modifications. She has worked closely with parties to reach amicable resolutions, and when agreements have not been available, has proven to be an aggressive advocate for her clients.
After a Final Parenting Plan has been entered, the primary custodial parent is required to provide notice of an intended relocation. These matters often involve child custody disputes, and can ultimately become the equivalent of a child custody or parenting plan modification action, especially if the matter is not handled correctly from the beginning. It is especially important in relocation cases to consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with court rules and filing requirements, and to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the case.