There are Stringent Requirements to Modifying Parenting Plans
When you are getting divorced, you may settle the matters in your case through agreement. This is favored—by doing so, you get to negotiate what will happen to your property and your children without leaving it in the hands of a judge.
Agreeing to Time Sharing of Children
When you originally negotiate an agreement, what happens to your children will be determined in a parenting plan, a detailed accounting of which parent makes certain decisions for the child, and when the child sees or spends nights with both parents.
The problem with these plans and any settlement you make in a family law case is that it is hard to predict the future. What seems like a great idea now may end up not working out. If you have young children, you may have to predict what will work for everyone years in the future.
Altering Parenting Plans
When it comes to altering parenting plans, courts face a balancing act. On one hand is the best interests of the children. But unlike in an original divorce proceeding, this is not the sole interest a court has. It also must protect the sanctity and enforceability of agreements made by parties.
That’s why modifying a parenting plan is so difficult. You can’t just say that it is best for the child to modify an agreement. You must also show other factors.
A substantial and permanent change in circumstance – Something has to have changed since your original agreement, and it can’t just be that the other parent is being a jerk or didn’t take the kids last weekend when he was supposed to.The change also must be substantial, but there is no legal definition to this term, leaving it in the interpretation of the judge. Some cases have even held that when a parent moves an hour away, that this may not be substantial enough to warrant modification. Permanency can be a big hurdle. If mom has a work assignment for the next year that leaves the child staying with dad for more time than the original plan calculated, that may not be considered permanent.
Unanticipated – The change has to have been something that you could not know or anticipate when you made the agreement originally. So, for example, if your ex works too many nights and can’t take the kids when he is supposed to, but you knew all along that he had a job that may require nights, this won’t be unanticipated.
Best Interests of the Child
Only after all of these hurdles have been met by the party seeking modification will the court then look to what is in the best interest of the child.
Bear in mind that if a child is in imminent danger, courts will usually fashion a remedy, even temporarily, to protect the child. Thus, parents should not hesitate to seek modification or at least some relief from a court if they feel the child is endangered.
Contact the Tampa family law attorneys at The Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group for help and advice if you think that divorce agreements you signed are not being followed or are in need of modification.