5 Requirements You Need to Petition to Modify a Parenting Plan


A parenting plan is essential for ensuring stability for both parents and children. It creates a set routine with specific days and times that each parent will spend time with the children. Having a schedule promotes stability, reduces conflict and creates an environment where parents and their children can build strong relationships. When the plan is first created and approved by the court, it is meant to remain in place until the child becomes an adult. As kids grow up, however, their needs will change. Additionally, the lives of parents will grow and evolve, which may make an existing parenting plan obsolete. 

In the state of Washington, if one or both parents want to modify the parenting plan, it is necessary to file a Petition with the court requesting changes to the parenting plan. The court starts from the default position of leaving an existing parenting plan in place unless there is good reason to approve a modification. If you want to file a Petition for Modification, you will need to make sure you meet one or more of the following requirements.

  1. Both Parents Agree to the Modification

The first and easiest way to get a parenting plan modified is to have a new parenting plan that both parents agree to implement which they include together with their Petition to the court. The court will almost always approve a parenting plan modification if both parties have already agreed to do so and have agreed on a new parenting plan. The only time that Washington courts won’t agree is if there is some obvious harm that it would cause to a child, or the court believes there was some type of coercion involved.

  1. Danger to the Child’s Wellbeing

If a child is being abused or neglected by a parent, this is certainly a situation that necessitates the filing of a Petition for Modification. Abuse that causes physical, mental, or emotional problems for a child will often require an immediate hearing where an order is entered until a full hearing on your Petition can be heard. When your child is in danger, however, you will also want to work with law enforcement or social services to ensure your child is safe until the court can have a hearing on your parenting plan modification.

  1. Custodial Interference

When one parent is blatantly violating an existing parenting plan, the court will want to step in and demand that the plan is followed. This often occurs in the form of contempt when one parent refuses to honor the parenting plan. In Washington state, if a parent is found in contempt on two occasions over a period of three years, this alone can serve as the basis to modify an existing parenting plan.

  1. Relocation of a Parent

There are times when a parent has to move away for a job or other obligations. If they are moving to another state, or even just to another part of Washington, it can often make it impossible to comply with the existing parenting plan. Prior to moving, the relocating parent should provide the other parent written notice of his/her intent to relocate. If the other parent timely objects to the notice of intended relocation, then the court will consider a number of factors in determining whether a parent can relocate with the children. Relocation issues are complicated and frequently can result in a trial if the parents cannot reach an agreement. Courts recognize the need to have parenting plans in place that work for the parties and are not onerous given the distance that separates the parents.

  1. Significant Change in the Needs of the Child or Parent’s circumstances

Sometimes situations occur in the lives of parents which make modification of the parenting plan necessary. Additionally, as children grow, their needs often change dramatically. The courts are willing to make modifications in order to accommodate the circumstances of a parent or the needs of children as they grow. However, this is often the most difficult avenue to have a modification approved so, whenever possible, try to have the other parent agree to these changes when submitting a Petition. 

If you believe a change to your current parenting plan is necessary, contact us today to see how we can help you.

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McMahon Law Group

Legal issues of any type can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, and certainly something you don’t want to face alone. Attorney Jacque McMahon and the McMahon Law Group will work closely with you to ensure you not only get the best legal representation possible, but that you are well-informed throughout the process. If you are facing legal issues, please contact us to discuss your situation and get the help you need.

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