If you are going through a divorce and have children, a Parenting Plan will be a topic of many discussions. A Parenting Plan will lay out various expectations regarding your children, some of which may include: where the children reside during the school week and weekends; when and how each parent will spend time with the children; who will decide medical, educational, or religious decisions; and who the children will spend certain holidays with. And even if you have a Parenting Plan set up, these terms will most likely need to be reevaluated as the children grow up.
So, when should you modify a Parenting Plan?
When dealing with children, the Colorado courts follow the standard of “best interest of the children.” And once a plan is set and approved by the court it should only be altered if there are “substantial and continuous changes in circumstances.” But what does that mean?
A continuous change in circumstances may mean something different for each family; since each family is unique. However, some common changes that may warrant a change in a Parenting Plan may include the following…
- A Change in Your Child’s Behavior
Divorces are stressful, but they are especially stressful for children. Even if you and your ex-spouse are sensitive to these changes in a current Parenting Plan, children can still respond negatively. This can manifest in a multitude of ways. Teachers may be reaching out describing outbursts from your child that are uncharacteristic, your child may be wetting the bed, having tantrums when they haven’t in years, or being withdrawn when they are typically bubbly and outgoing. These may be indicators that your Parenting Plan needs to be modified to help them cope with the changes occurring. It may be a good idea to speak with an attorney regarding how a Parenting Plan can be altered to help your child.
- A Change in Schools
Sometimes when children start or move schools their schedules change. This may also mean that if you have multiple children that their schedules for school breaks may not match up either. These changes may very well interfere with parenting time for Mom or Dad. Therefore, it may be necessary to modify an existing Parenting Plan to reflect your children’s new school schedule.
- A Change in Extracurricular Activities
It is exciting to see your child start a new sport or other after-school activity. But this may translate to having tournaments or games on weekends, or their practices shift from Wednesday nights to Fridays. It may also be that your child needs some extra help in their studies after school or over the weekend. These changes may interfere with a Parenting Plan already in place. If its changes that are going to stick for the foreseeable future, then you may want to modify a current Parenting Plan.
- The Children Are Growing Up
You may have a Parenting Plan that has worked fabulously for your family for years. However, it was drafted when your child was a newborn and now they are a toddler or have just started school. It is likely that the Parenting Plan from before will no longer function well. Therefore, it may be best to modify the Parenting Plan to reflect these new stages in life.
You and your children may have moved to a neighboring town, hours away, or even to another state. A big move that alters your children’s routines, schools, and distance from their other parent are all good reasons to modify a Parenting Plan. A move may result in Mom or Dad being unable pick up the children from school on Friday to spend the weekend with them. A modification may include more time for the distant parent to have the children over Winter or Summer Breaks or allocated phone-time. If you know you are moving it is best to speak to your attorney about how to modify the Parenting Plan before you leave, if at all possible.
Things to Keep in Mind When Modifying a Parenting Plan
A modification should only occur when there is a substantial and continuous change in circumstances that is within the best interest of the child. It is important to modify the Parenting Plan as soon as possible once these changes are identified so that the children have a sense of consistency. Moreover, changes in a child’s life routine should not mean that a child loses out on a relationship with one of the parents. It is important to modify the Parenting Plan so that both parents can continue to have a meaningful relationship with their children, even if that may look different than before.
Managing life changes and abiding by a current Parenting Plan is complicated and each family’s needs are unique. Therefore, it is important to discuss your circumstances with a competent domestic relations attorney. If you are experiences changes within your family circumstance and need to modify, or create, a Parenting Plan, please contact our Domestic Relations team today. We are here to help you navigate through your post-dissolution matters.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Morgan Paterson is an associate attorney at Feldmann Nagel Cantafio on the Domestic Relations team. She is passionate about helping her clients receive positive outcomes in their domestic relation matters.