Last Updated on August 11, 2023 @ 8:30 am
Modifying a Bad Parenting Plan
A child visitation schedule, also called a parenting plan, serves as both a calendar for parents to follow regarding parenting time with their children as well as the allocation of parental responsibility (decision making) for their children. A child visitation schedule (parenting plan) is particularly important for parents who share physical custody of their children in one way or another. A child visitation lawyer helps parents by drafting a parenting schedule and provides assistance to his/her client if disagreements arise regarding the visitation schedule. The vast majority of child visitation lawyers that are skilled at fixing visitation agreements provide free consultations to discuss your issues in detail – so an attorney should always be consulted.
Child Visitation Schedule Problems?
Some parents are able to establish a visitation schedule within their parenting plan (also known as an “Allocation Judgment”, “Parenting Plan”, or “Custody Judgment”, depending on the state) and visitation schedule through mediation or settlement while others need assistance from a judge in court. When parents create the visitation schedule themselves, they have more input and this allows them to be creative regarding visitation details. Many parents are able to work things out amicably in this manner.
However, what initially seems like a suitable visitation schedule may become unworkable in the future. Parents might change jobs, become remarried and have another child, or need to move for a job or to a different home. In addition, if the plan does not account for details like which parent is responsible for a sick child being sent home from school, disagreements could arise. Even something as simple as transportation to and from the home of the other parent can cause an argument. When parents disagree on an aspect of the visitation schedule or encounter situations that are unaccounted for in the parenting plan, they should get legal help and modify the visitation schedule.
Schedules Can be Altered if Both Parties Agree
Child visitation schedules are a signed court order and are legally binding – even though it may be an agreement, when entered by a judge. A court entered parenting plan carries with it the full force of the court system to enforce the terms of the agreement should a dispute arise. However, these plans can be altered provided that both parents agree to the changes. Child visitation days and times may be changed and as children get older, parents tend to be more flexible with the arrangements because they and their children have become comfortable with the living situation.
When both parties agree on certain changes to a parenting plan, modifying the visitation schedule is relatively easy. A discussion with a lawyer should take place where the agreed changes are discussed and put to paper. Typically, if only a small portion of the parenting plan is going to be changed, (such as extending weekend visitation from Friday-Sunday to become Friday to Monday; or changing pick-up/drop-off location), a lawyer would type up a one or two page Agreed Order that both parents would sign and then have it entered in court. This can happen fairly quickly and without the need for multiple court dates.
When a parenting plan needs to have significant modifications that are agreed, a lawyer would typically re-write the entire parenting plan so that there isn’t confusion as to which portions of the old plan still govern and which portions of the new parenting plan control.
Modifying a Parenting Plan Without Agreement
Even if things move along relatively smoothly, there may come a time when one or both parents want to change the visitation schedule but cannot agree on the changes to be made. At that point, they must request a visitation schedule modification from the court. A child visitation lawyer can provide valuable help in both situations. The majority of states now require parents to wait a certain amount of time before coming back to court to modify a parenting plan (unless it is an agreement – parents can always modify a parenting plan by agreement). In many states, parents should wait at least 2-years before seeking a modification of the parenting plan unless some type of emergency arises.
The typical process for modifying a visitation schedule or parenting plan when there is not an agreement would be to first seek mediation. Most courts require this (unless it is an emergency, of course),because the goal is to get people to work out there disagreements through a process of mutual negotiation and come to an agreement, rather than through a lengthy court battle. Should mediation fail, the court would then be the next stop for the parent that seeks to modify the parenting plan. Many times when mediation fails, the court will appoint a neural third party attorney to represent the best interests of the children. This would be a child representative / guardian ad litem. A child representative will represent the child only, but the parents will pay the child representative’s bill (some states/counties have guardian ad litem’s that can be appointed for free).
A child representative will essentially be “the boots on the ground” for the court. He or she will investigate the situation from all angles by interviewing the children’s, parents, family, therapists, and teachers. The child representative will then give his/her recommendation to the judge on what he/she believes is in the best interests of the children. For the most part, judges take the recommendation of the child representative very seriously and usually order their recommendations. For this reason, it is essential that a best first impression of a child representative happen every time a parent meets wit or talks to the child representative. Make sure they see you on your best behaviors at all times.
How Does a Lawyer Help?
Parents should understand their child visitation rights and work out a mutually acceptable visitation schedule themselves whenever possible. When they cannot agree, an attorney may help them resolve their issues or present the case to a court. In the end, the best interests of the child is what matters most and parents should keep this in mind before they begin arguing about the visitation schedule or other aspects in the parenting plan. An experienced lawyer (found by clicking here) knows how to negotiate the best changes possible to your parenting plan. An experienced lawyer also knows which child representatives are good and which are not, and they will help your case by getting someone they trust and respect appointed to the case if ordered by the judge. Having a lawyer fix a bad visitation agreement is the safest way for a parent that needs a change to ensure their rights are protected.