Setting up a parenting plan through the court system can be a stressful time, especially when young children are already dealing with their new reality of divorcing parents. A final court order sets in place where your children will be living, how much time they spend with each parent per year and other necessary details regarding their wellbeing.
Be aware that this order does not necessarily mean your life and your new schedule with your children must remain the same forever. The Washington courts are welcoming to changes, provided that they are in the best interest of the children. You can file a petition for minor changes such as holiday visiting dates or a work schedule change as well as major changes such as a custody change.
For major custody changes, the court will require you to provide significant proof that the changes are necessary for the children’s wellbeing. Before judges even allow for a trial to occur, they will request a Threshold or Adequate Cause hearing where you can explain your reasoning. In the case that the other parent does not agree to your proposed change, there will likely be a trial where the judge will make the final decision.
Possible “substantial changes of circumstances” can include:
- The parent with primary custody has allowed the children to spend more time with the secondary custody parent.
- You suspect that the other home where the children are living is no longer safe on a physical or emotional level.
- The court held the other parent in contempt at least twice in three years or the other parent received a criminal conviction for interfering with custody.
Contempt or clarification
If you like your current plan but the other parent is not following it or is having issues with the details, you can file for contempt or a clarification. Speaking with a lawyer in these cases can help ensure you get a fair outcome and protect the stability and happiness of your children’s lives, now and in the future.