December 12, 2012

Parenting Plan (Custody) Modifications

It is difficult to formally change a parenting plan in Washington. Because Washington courts emphasize consistency and stability for children, they only grant parenting plan modifications when the requesting parent can show they are warranted by a “substantial change in circumstances” that has occurred since the parenting plan was ordered.
There are 2 types of parenting plan modifications: major modifications (i.e. changes in the child’s primary residence) and minor modifications (i.e. adjustments that do not change the child’s primary residence). To get a major modification, a parent has to show: (1) the child has been integrated into his or her family as a result of significant deviating from the parenting plan; (2) risk of harm to the child in his or her current environment; or (3) that the other parent has been found in contempt twice within 3 years for not complying with the parenting plan. It is much easier to get a minor modification- which can be obtained based on reasons like involuntary changes in the parent’s work schedule or change of parent’s residence.
If both parents want to change the parenting plan and agree on how to modify it, the court can formally modify it as long as it is “in the best interests of the child.” Generally, this means a parent should only pursue a formal modification if he or she can’t work out a new schedule with the other parent.
To learn more about parenting plan modifications, contact a Kirkland family law attorney.

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