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Module 2:
When can a parenting plan be changed?

A parenting plan is a document that determines whether a person is legally responsible for the care of a child(s). This includes whether a caretaker has legal custody of a child, or if a caretaker been awarded visitation rights (parenting time).

Once a parenting plan is ordered by a judge in court, there are only certain conditions under which it can be changed. We outline those conditions for you below:

1. A Change in a Caretaker's Capacity to Provide Care

Requests to change (modify) a parenting plan must typically be made due to a change in a caretaker's ability to raise and/or care for the child(s) listed on the plan.

Changing a Custody Arrangement

In general, a custody arrangement can only be changed if it has been AT LEAST two (2) years since it was ordered by a judge in court.

Exceptions to this two (2) year period can only be made with proper evidence that the child's current caretaker arrangement poses a threat to their health or safety.

Changing a Visitation Schedule

Unlike a custody arrangement, a visitation schedule can be changed at any time – as long as the  change in the caretaker's capacity can be proven to a judge in court.

2. Proof of Conduct Previously Unknown to the Courts

Changes to a parenting plan can be granted if a judge was unaware that a caretaker has behaved in ways that could seriously endanger their child(s). The judge must have had no knowledge of this caretaker's behavior when the most recent parenting plan was ordered.

Qualifying forms of inappropriate behavior by a caregiver can include:

  • abusing or allowing the abuse of someone close to the child
  • use of alcohol or other substances that could impact their ability to provide care; or
  • continuously preventing another caregiver from seeing, interacting, or exercising their visitation rights with the child

3. Relocating to a New Residence

If a caregiver is moving to a new home that is at least 25 miles away from their current home, a judge must hear that caregiver's request to change their current parenting plan. This request is typically made via a motion to relocate.

A caregiver can request to relocate with a child ONLY IF they have primary custody of that child, or share their joint-custody. If relocating with a child, a caregiver MUST provide the child's other caregiver with notice of the relocation.

4 . Health and Safety Concerns

While there aren't many valid reasons to request a change in a parenting plan, judges can make exceptions in times of emergency. Specifically, if a child's health and safety are at risk, a parenting plan can be changed at any time to better reflect the child's best interests.

Affidavits (evidence) detailing the nature of the threat to the child's well-being may be needed for a judge in court to order the plan be changed.

Please note: If you believe a child is at risk to being harmed due to abuse or neglect, call the 24-Hour Child Abuse Hotline at 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873). If you suspect a child is in eminent danger, call 911.