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Module 2:
When can a parenting plan be changed?

Only those with a particular relationship to a minor child can start a court case to get legal custody or visitation rights with the child. In some cases, these caregivers include non-parents and even those that aren't biologically related to the child.

If the court grants you legal custody or visitation rights with a child, you and their other caregiver will receive a parenting plan. This is also often called a custody order or visitation order.

The list below details all persons that can request the court for custody or visitation rights:

1. A child's legal parent

Legal parents always have the right to request the courts for legal custody of or visitation rights with their child. However, no legal parent is guaranteed this right.

Unless two parents have joint-custody of a child, only one legal parent can have legal custody of a child. This parent is called the custodial parent.

Alternatively, a legal parent that does not have custody of their child (the non-custodial parent) can always request for visitation rights. If a parent is denied custody or visitation rights they may be able to change (modify) their parenting plan.

2 . A child's grandparent

Under certain circumstances, a child's grandparent can request custody or visitation rights with the child. However, these circumstances change depending on whether the request is for custody or visitation rights.

Custody

For a grandparent to request custody of a child, at least one of the child's legal parents must have passed away. Unless both of the child's parents are deceased, at least ONE (1) of the following must also be true:

  • The surviving parent has been missing for over a month;
  • The surviving parent is in a state or federal prison; or
  • The surviving parent has been convicted of a felony

Visitation

For a grandparent to request visitation with a child, at least one of the child's legal parents must pose a physical, mental, or emotional threat to the child. In addition, at least ONE (1) of the following must be true:

  • One of the child's legal parents has been found by a court order to be unfit to care for their child
  • One of the child's legal parents has been in jail or prison for at least 90 days
  • One of the child's legal parents has been missing for at least 90 days; or
  • One of the child's legal parents is deceased

2 . A child's grandparent

Under certain circumstances, a child's grandparent can request custody or visitation rights with the child. However, these circumstances change depending on whether the request is for custody or visitation rights.

Custody

For a grandparent to request custody of a child, at least one of the child's legal parents must have passed away. Unless both of the child's parents are deceased, at least ONE (1) of the following must also be true:

  • The surviving parent has been missing for over a month;
  • The surviving parent is in a state or federal prison; or
  • The surviving parent has been convicted of a felony

Visitation

For a grandparent to request visitation with a child, at least one of the child's legal parents must pose a physical, mental, or emotional threat to the child. In addition, at least ONE (1) of the following must be true:

  • One of the child's legal parents has been found by a court order to be unfit to care for their child
  • One of the child's legal parents has been in jail or prison for at least 90 days
  • One of the child's legal parents has been missing for at least 90 days; or
  • One of the child's legal parents is deceased

3 . A child's step-parent

Similarly, there are limited circumstances under which a step-parent can request custody or visitation rights with a child. These circumstances also depend on whether the step-parent is requesting custody or visitation.

Custody

For a step-parent to request custody of a child, it must be shown to a judge that it's in the child's best interests to live with their step-parent. In addition, ALL of the following must be true:

  • The child's custodial parent is unable to be the child's primary caretaker;
  • The step-parent already helped raise and take care of the child; and
  • The child wants to live with their step-parent

Visitation

For a step-parent to request visitation with a child, at least one of the child's legal parents must pose a physical, mental, or emotional threat to the child. In addition, at least ONE (1) of the following must be true:

  • One of the child's legal parents has been found by a court order to be unfit to care for their child
  • One of the child's legal parents has been in jail or prison for at least 90 days
  • One of the child's legal parents has been missing for at least 90 days; or
  • One of the child's legal parents is deceased

4 . Other non-parents

Only certain other non-parents can request custody or visitation rights with a child. Eligible persons may very depending on whether they are requesting custody or visitation.

Custody

The only situation which a non-parent can request custody of a child is if they are not currently in the custody of their legal parents.

In that case, a person must also show that it is in the child's best interest to live with them, and that they are fit to be the child's caretaker.

Visitation

A friend of a minor child's legal parent can request visitation rights ONLY if that parent is or will soon be deployed for military service.

This request must be made by the parent being deployed for military service. This process is referred to as substitute visitation.