Parenting Plan Modification
There is a strong presumption for custodial continuity in the state of Washington. A trial court must determine and allocate the parties’ parental responsibilities based on what is in the best interest of the child. The “best interests of the child” standard are the top consideration in parenting plan modification cases, which is served by stability unless a change must protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm.
The court will not modify a prior parenting plan unless it finds that a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or the other parent’s household and that the modification is in the best interest of the child.
If a court finds a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, it may change the residential schedule if it determines that the child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child or the court found the nonmoving parent in contempt of court at least twice within three years because the parent violated the residential provisions.
What is a Detrimental Present Environment?
The detriment considered is as of the present environment of the child provided by the child’s residential parent. A determination that one parent’s living environment is detrimental is not based upon finding a parent unfit. One action detrimental to a child’s best interest is interference with a parent’s relationship with that child. Modification of custody could be made based on a parent’s obstruction of visitation rights.
Some examples of substantial changes in circumstances include:
- mother withheld the child and prevented contact with the father for a prolonged period without good reason;
- mother began living with a man with a history of domestic violence, assault, had multiple petitions for anti-harassment filed against him;
- the conflict between the mother and her new partner with the child present was detrimental to the child’s mental and emotional health.
- The mother’s new partner encouraged the child to spy on the child’s father and the father’s new partner.
A parent seeking to change the primary residence of a child must demonstrate that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred that requires modification to protect the best interest of the child.
A minor modification/adjustment can be made if it does not change the primary residence of the child. Some examples of minor modifications include a change in the pick-up times in the residential schedule; expansion of three-day weekends; addition or deletion of a holiday, etc.
A parent with whom the child does not reside a majority of the time and whose residential time is subject to limitations may not seek expansion of residential time unless that parent establishes a substantial change in circumstances specifically related to the basis of the limitation.
ZafiroLaw Can Help
If you need help with parenting plan modification issues, you need to get the guidance of an attorney soon. Our team can help! Contact ZafiroLaw today.