If you went through a divorce in Colorado and you have kids, you likely have a parenting plan in place that details your agreement with your ex-spouse on how to parent your children moving forward. While this plan may have suited your goals initially, as time goes on, it may be necessary for you to update or modify this critical document.
Here, you will learn what circumstances will justify a modification request and what steps to take to pursue a modification and get it approved by the courts.
Whether you need to modify because of a scheduling change, a need to change vacation or holiday schedules, moving cities or states, or simply because your children are older and involved in more or different activities than they were at the time of your divorce, modifications are common. It is important to know, however, that the court will not approve every modification request. Judges must conclude or “find” that the proposed change is in the “best interests of your children” and that the benefit of the change outweighs any disruption due to the proposed change.
A modification is appropriate for a variety of different circumstances. In addition to the children’s activities or schedule changing, the courts will consider a modification whenever a parent is relocating or a parent’s circumstances (i.e., job schedule) has changed. Common additional reasons include situations where a parent repeatedly disobeys the original parenting plan such that the plan is no longer workable or is too disruptive or stressful to the children.
Importantly, a modification will be granted whenever the court finds that there is endangerment to the children in any way. If your children’s safety or welfare is in question, you must seek help from a trained mental health provider or a physician immediately.
Here are the steps you should take in order to pursue a modification request.
First, you should review your current parenting plan and highlight the specific provisions that you want to update or modify.
Next, you should outline your goals for the revised plan and be as specific as possible so that you are well-prepared to discuss it with your ex-spouse. Your request should then be put in terms of the children’s best interest and should not include any inflammatory language.
Once you have created a specific outline of your requests to the parenting plan, it is time to see if you and your ex-spouse can agree. If it is safe for you to do so, e-mail your ex-spouse your specific requests to facilitate discussion. Depending on your relationship with your ex-spouse, mediation may be an excellent option to reach a full or partial agreement. Depending upon the language of your original parenting plan, it may even be required prior to filing anything with the court.
If you can reach a full or partial agreement with your ex-spouse, you should hire a good family law attorney to draft the updated parenting plan. You need an official written document signed by both you and your ex-spouse to file with the court. If you do not file the agreed-upon change, and get it approved by the court, future disputes over the terms may arise. Worse yet, if there are problems with the new plan, it will be difficult if not possible, to enforce if it hasn’t been court-ordered.
If you and your ex-spouse cannot reach an agreement, hire an experienced family law attorney to file a motion with the court and request a hearing. Again, you should be careful to note if your original parenting plan had a mediation requirement, as that means you must attempt mediation before filing with the court. If you do not have a mediation requirement or have tried mediation without success, you will need to be prepared for your court hearing. Be sure to have enough information to explain to the judge exactly what you want to be modified, why this is in the children’s best interest, and how the children’s relationship with the other parent is significant. Adequate preparation for your hearing will help you to be calm, clear, and collected in court.
For further information on updating or modifying your parenting plan, please get in touch with The Harris Law Firm. Our experienced attorneys are happy to assist you during this process.