A parenting plan modification, or change to your existing parenting plan, may result if an unforeseen change in circumstance has resulted since your final parenting plan was entered and such a change is in the best interests of your child or children. A parenting plan modification may be a major or minor modification, although there are differences between the two. County superior courts, such as Spokane, will generally retain the existing parenting plan unless substantial changes in circumstance necessitate the modification.
What is the difference between a Major and Minor Parenting Plan Modification?
A major parenting plan modification is a change to your existing parenting plan that modifies the plan more than twenty four full calendar days, exceeds ninety total overnights in a calendar year, or changes placement/custody of the child or children between parents.
An unforeseen substantial change in circumstance that has occurred since the existing parenting plan was entered is necessary for a major modification. This major modification must also serve the best interests of your child or children.
Washington Domestic Relations Statute RCW 26.09.260 – Modification of a Parenting Plan or Custody Decree is the relevant Statute for parenting plan modifications. It states that a major modification to your existing parenting plan may only result in one of four ways:
- The parents agree to the modification;
- The child has been integrated into the family of the petitioner with the consent of the other parent in substantial deviation from the parenting plan;
- The child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child; or
- The court has found the nonmoving parent in contempt of court at least twice within three years because the parent failed to comply with the residential time provisions in the court-ordered parenting plan, or the parent has been convicted of custodial interference in the first or second decree.
Pursuant to Note 3 above, any detriment to a child must rise to the level described in [RCW 26.09.191].
A minor parenting plan modification is a change to your existing parenting plan that does not exceed twenty-four full days in a calendar year or does not result in a schedule that exceeds ninety overnights per year in total. A minor parenting plan modification may also result on a change of residence of the parent with whom the child does not reside the majority of the time or an involuntary change in work schedule by a parent that makes the parenting plan impractical to follow.
A substantial unforeseen change in circumstance to either parent or child is necessary for a minor parenting plan modification and furthermore requires that the child or children not change the residence he/she is schedule to reside the majority of time.
Washington Domestic Relations Statute RCW 26.09.260(5) is also the Statute on point for minor parenting plan modifications. It states the following:
(5) The court may order adjustments to the residential aspects of a parenting plan upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances of either parent or of the child, and without consideration of the factors set forth in subsection (2) of this section, if the proposed modification is only a minor modification in the residential schedule that does not change the residence the child is scheduled to reside in the majority of the time and:
(a) Does not exceed twenty-four full days in a calendar year; or
(b) Is based on a change of residence of the parent with whom the child does not reside the majority of the time or an involuntary change in work schedule by a parent which makes the residential schedule in the parenting plan impractical to follow; or
(c) Does not result in a schedule that exceeds ninety overnights per year in total, if the court finds that, at the time the petition for modification is filed, the decree of dissolution or parenting plan does not provide reasonable time with the parent with whom the child does not reside a majority of the time, and further, the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child to increase residential time with the parent in excess of the residential time period in (a) of this subsection. However, any motion under this subsection (5)(c) is subject to the factors established in subsection
(2) of this section if the party bringing the petition has previously been granted a modification under this same subsection within twenty-four months of the current motion. Relief granted under this section shall not be the sole basis for adjusting or modifying child support.
RCW 26.09.260(5)(a) – (c)
Note that a minor parenting plan modification may also result if the existing parenting plan does not provide reasonable time with the parent with whom the child does not reside a majority of the time provided the court finds such a modification is in the child’s best interests.
Minor parenting plan modifications, specifically an adjustment, may also result to non-residential aspects of your parenting plan, including the transportation, dispute resolution, and decision-making authority provisions. These adjustments require a substantial change in circumstance or circumstance of either parent or of a child, and the adjustment is in the best interest of the child. [RCW 26.09.260(10)] However, if a parent requires or requests unilateral decision making, please reference [RCW 26.09.187(2)(b)] Although unilateral decision making can be requested, it is still difficult to obtain it unless these factors are clearly met.
Again, parenting plan modifications, either major or minor modifications, require a tremendous knowledge base on many pertinent statutes as well as legal procedure. Outside of the Washington Domestic Relations Statutes above, you will undoubtedly be best served with a knowledgeable attorney to represent you. A good lawyer can guide you through the process efficiently and effectively to help obtain the best possible outcome in court.
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