How Hard is it to Modify a Co-Parenting Agreement
How Hard is it to Modify A Co-Parenting Arrangement?
Co-parenting arrangements work well until they don’t. A substantial change in circumstances may call to modify a co-parenting agreement, whether changing who has physical or legal custody of the child, adjusting child support payments, or tweaking any other provision in the plan in light of the new situation.
If you believe the original co-parenting plan needs altering due to a monumental change in circumstances, you can petition the family court for modifications. If the co-parent agrees with the proposed changes, the modification process is quick and straightforward. (Technically, you don’t even have to petition the court to make the change when both parents agree, although it’s wise to formalize it.)
Modification becomes more challenging, however, if the co-parent contests the change. In such cases, the judge will typically order an investigation of the circumstances and hold a hearing to hear both sides of the story before issuing a ruling. If your co-parent contests your modification petition, you need a skilled family law attorney to help you achieve the result you seek.
Common Substantial Change in Circumstances
The court will modify a co-parenting agreement when 1) there has been a substantial change of circumstances that affects the child’s welfare, and 2) modification is in the child’s best interest. Courts are most likely to find that a “substantial change of circumstances” has occurred if:
- The child has become unsafe with a parent. If a petitioning parent can prove that a significant change has occurred that leaves the child significantly less safe in the co-parent’s care, the court is likely to agree to modify the order. Such changes may include circumstances where:
- The parent has abused, neglected, or abandoned the child
- The parent has developed a substance abuse or addiction problem
- The parent is living in an unstable or dangerous environment
- The custodial parent seeks to leave the state or country with the child. A change of dwelling does not necessarily require a modification to a co-parenting agreement. That said, if a parent intends to leave the state, country, or otherwise live significantly farther from the co-parent, a modification may be in order. A non-custodial parent may seek sole custody, adjustments to their visitation rights, or changes to the agreed-upon holiday schedule if they can show that the move makes parent-child visits more complicated and affects the child’s life.
- A custodial parent’s schedule has changed significantly. A parent may seek to modify the agreement if their co-parent’s schedule (or their own) has changed to the point where it affects the child’s wellbeing. For example, if a parent has received a new job or promotion that requires them to work irregular hours or travel substantially more than before, either or both parents may find it reasonable to change certain aspects of the agreement.
- A parent’s life has changed substantially. Life always brings change, for better or worse. A parent who was unemployed at the signing of the original co-parenting agreement may find permanent, long-term work that allows them to provide better financial support to their child. A custodial parent who was initially in excellent health might develop a debilitating disease that limits the care they can provide to their child. The court may find it appropriate to modify an agreement if a parent has:
- Lost their job or obtained a new one,
- Experienced a substantial increase or decrease in income
- Developed a serious physical or mental medical condition
- Recovered from a substance abuse problem or medical condition.
- The child’s life has changed substantially. Naturally, children’s lives can also significantly change from the time of the original agreement. As the child matures, it may be more appropriate for parents to share custody or increase the frequency of visits to the non-custodial parent. The order may also need to be modified if a child’s mental or physical health changes require updated arrangements. A child over age 12 also may request some changes regarding custody or visitation.
- A parent refuses to comply with the terms of the original co-parenting agreement. If a parent ignores the co-parenting agreement by refusing to allow a co-parent access to their child, repeatedly taking the child out of town without the co-parent’s permission, disregarding their child support responsibilities, or breaks the agreement in other ways, the court may consider the violation a substantial change in circumstances that requires modification of the order.
How Can We Help?
Modify a co-parenting agreement can become tricky if you have trouble communicating with your ex-spouse or they’re against the changes proposed. If you need help modifying a co-parenting agreement or would like to discuss other issues relating to child custody, reach out to The Miller Law Group for a consultation today, or call us at (914) 256-8997.