When Can You Modify A Time-Sharing Agreement?

As children grow, their interests, goals, desires, and needs change as well — the child’s relationship with their parents can change, too. On the reverse side, a parent’s ability to adhere to the current time-sharing plan may no longer be possible – either due to an illness, job change, or relocation.

The original Parenting Plan, Time-Sharing Agreement, or Custody Order may no longer be relevant or may not address new issues. When there is a drastic change in circumstance, a Time-Sharing Agreement needs to be updated to account for these changes.

How Does the Process For Time Sharing Modification Work?

Before arranging how to change a parenting plan with the court, you need to bear in mind that parents can, in virtually any situation, change a parenting plan without the aid of the court. The only exception to this is when one parent has to put the life of the child in danger in the past. You see, courts are willing to support divorced parents to communicate and work together about the needs of their shared child and take necessary measures to meet such needs.

Let’s say a divorced couple has one child in common. At the time of their divorce, when the parenting plan was set, the child was just 2 years old, and the parenting plan set visitation for each parent at one week at a time. However, the time comes when the child must enter school – which can be complicated further if the father resides in a different school district than the mother.

Here, the parents can decide amongst themselves to change the parenting plan to have the child live with the mother throughout the school year since she resides in a better school district. The father has weekend visitation and is granted extended visitation time on school breaks and within the summer.

Safeguarding Your New Agreement

If you want to protect yourself, or rather the new arrangements, in the long run, we suggest that you notify your attorney that you’ve made an adjustment to the parenting plan through a verbal agreement.

It is advisable to put the verbal agreement into writing in order to protect both parties, should something happen that prevents the parents from co-parenting. For that reason, the written agreement should be signed by both parties and filed with the court.

Doing this will avoid the other parent from trying to claim later that there was no verbal agreement and you’re trying to restrict his or her parenting time.

What if the Other Parent Doesn’t Agree to Change the Plan?

If the other parent refuses to modify the parenting plan – verbally or through an agreed upon written agreement, you should contact your family law attorney to file a motion to modify the parenting plan with the court. If you no longer have a family law attorney, it is advisable to find yourself a child custody modification lawyer – one who has experience in specifically helping a parent gain a more reasonable time-sharing agreement.

When it comes to modifying a parenting plan, the court will decide ehich changes will be in the best interest of the child. Generally, it will change parenting plans when there’s been a significant and unanticipated change of circumstance.

The Modification Process

The process for a parenting plan modification beings once you file a written motion to the court that includes the reason for the need of the modification (the substancial change in your, or the child’s, circumstance) as well as a new proposed parenting plan which you’re requesting the court to use in place of the original order.

The modification request must indicate that you’re asking for a modification of the current parenting plan and a short statement as to why the current plan isn’t working. The new proposed plan must be as detailed as possible and cover, at a minimum, time sharing for the following areas:

  • School breaks and summer holidays
  • Child’s birthdays
  • Parent’s birthdays and holidays (i.e. Mother/Father’s Day)
  • Holiday arrangements (i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving)
  • Days the child will be with each parent outside of break/holiday exemptions
  • Time and location of exchange
  • Policy for emergency or non-permanent changes to the regular time-sharing arrangement (i.e. if a parent has to travel for work during their normal time with the child)

A copy of your motion, after filed with the court, should be served to the other parent for review. The court will arrange a hearing date to allow both parties to present their side for new arrangement needs or their opposition to the changes.

A family law attorney that is familiar with time-sharing modifications can help you draw up a new plan proposal and specify acceptable reasons for the need for changes. A lawyer can also help you file your motion to request a new parenting plan and ensure the other parent is served their copy. This can help alleviate your stress during this time and ensure your best case is made for needed changes to the time-sharing plan.