Whether arrived at through agreement or court order, Parenting Plans are modifiable. To modify a time-sharing schedule, shared parental responsibilities, or the amount of child support, the petitioning party must establish that there has been a substantial change in circumstances which requires the court to revise its original judgment. In addition, since the welfare of the child is paramount, it too is a factor that must be considered in the court’s decision.
Modifying Time-Sharing –The fact that the parties have not managed to get along at all since entry of the final judgment is not a substantial change in circumstances. But if a party fails to honor the time-sharing plan such as sending the child to out-of-town family or friends when the other parent’s time-sharing is to begin; interfering with telephone and other contacts with the child; denying previously agreed to changes on holidays or other special visitation dates; or failing to abide by the time-sharing schedule so often that it loses its purpose.
Failure to honor the other parent’s timesharing rights can allow the court to: (1) order additional visitation as is convenient for the parent deprived of visitation; (2) direct the noncompliant parent to pay the other’s attorneys’ fees and costs; (3) require the guilty parent to attend parenting classes; (4) order the parent to perform community service; (5) require the parent to pay the expenses incurred in visitation if the other parent lives more than 60 miles away. In extreme cases, the court can revise the time-sharing schedule in a manner it deems fit or impose any other reasonable sanction on the noncompliant parent.
Significant changes in a parent’s mental health, decline in the stability or wholesomeness of his/her home environment, or engagement in a lifestyle that adversely affects or threatens the well-being of a child may all serve as a basis for modifying the time-sharing schedule.
Modifying Child Support –An unexpected loss of employment or sharp reduction in pay are substantial changes in circumstances that will sustain a downward modification of a parent’s support obligation. Similarly, a substantial increase in income may serve to increase a parent’s share of support. The child’s increased needs can be a factor in modifying support as well. For example, physical illness or an accident can give rise to unexpected long term expenses. So can emotional problems requiring psychological or psychiatric treatment.
In each case, the party seeking modification must present substantial competent evidence as to the change in circumstances and the necessary and reasonable costs to be incurred in addressing the problem. A temporary increase or decrease in earnings is not sufficient as the law requires a permanent change in circumstances.