It can take weeks of negotiations or a frustrating trip to family court for parents to settle their disagreements about custody matters and work out a parenting plan. You and your ex have an obligation to uphold that custody order to the best of your abilities.
Occasionally, there will be situations that will force you to deviate from your written plan, but most of the time, you should be able to use your existing custody order to resolve any disagreements about parenting time or decisions regarding the children.
Sometimes, parents find themselves in the untenable situation where their parenting plan does not provide guidance or no longer reflects what is best for the children. In any of the three scenarios below, you would likely have grounds to ask for a custody modification from the courts, which is a formal change to your existing custody order.
When the family’s schedules change
Did you just take a job at a private medical practice after years of working in a hospital? Your new first-shift schedule could have a big impact on how frequently you can be present for your children.
It could also be the schedules of your children that have changed. It is common for parenting plans to require modifications when children move from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school.
When you have improved your circumstances
Sometimes, the terms set in the parenting plan reflect a parent’s current instability or challenges. If someone doesn’t yet have a place to stay or loses their job shortly after the beginning of the divorce, the courts may give them significantly less parenting time or visitation instead of shared custody.
As you improve your circumstances and address the personal issues that led to the limitations of your parenting responsibilities and rights, you may be able to convince the courts to increase your parenting time.
When your ex has started to struggle
Sometimes, the exact opposite scenario is what leads to a modification request. Instead of your situation proving, your ex’s seems to have worsened. Maybe you notice that they have started drinking or are now dating someone who is obviously abusive toward them or the children.
Provided that you have documentation that your ex has endangered the children’s safety and well-being, the courts may agree with you when you claim that decreasing their parenting time and increasing yours would be in their best interests.
There are many other scenarios in which you could potentially secure modification, often with the cooperation of your ex instead of through litigation. Learning more about when you should update your custody arrangements can help you do what is best for your family.