How To Modify a Parenting Plan in Washington

Posted On July 18, 2022 Parenting Plans

To modify a parenting plan in Washington, you must be able to convince the court that a substantial change has occurred. Once custody arrangements are established, judges are very hesitant about making significant changes. Our Spokane parenting plan attorneys are here to help.

What’s the Process for Modifying a Parenting Plan?

The parent seeking a parenting plan modification must first file paperwork with the court, including a “Petition for Modification of Adjustment of Child Custody Decree/Parenting Plan.” The changes the parent is seeking must be specified on the petition, how they are in the child’s best interests, as well as the substantial change that occurred. 

Adequate Cause Hearing

After reviewing the forms requesting a modification, a judge will schedule an “adequate cause hearing,” also referred to as a “threshold hearing.” Both parents must attend, and the parent requesting the change must prove adequate cause for the modification. However, the other parent will have an opportunity to present a written declaration in support or opposition to the change. If the court is convinced that there is adequate cause, another hearing will be set to determine whether the modification is appropriate. Otherwise, the court will deny the request to change the parenting plan. 

Factors Considered in a Parenting Plan Modification Hearing

At the full hearing on the modification petition, a judge will consider the child’s best interests before making a decision. For example, the following factors may be taken into account: 

  • Whether both parents agree to the change.
  • How integrated the child is in the family of the parties requesting the modification.  
  • Whether the child’s current home environment is dangerous to their physical, mental, or emotional health. 
  • Whether the proposed modification serves the child’s best interests. 
  • Whether either parent failed to comply with the current parenting plan twice or more within three years.
  • Whether either parent has interfered with the other parent’s custody or visitation rights. 

If the judge finds that the modification has advantages that outweigh any negatives, they will likely allow it. However, if the parents disagree with the modification, the judge may choose to temporarily grant the change and let the case proceed to mediation. At that point, the parents can either reach a mutual agreement or choose to head to trial.  

What Is Considered a Minor Custody Modification?

A minor modification to a parenting plan is a small change, such as requesting different scheduled visitation days of the week or weekends in the month. The child’s scheduled residence does not change the majority of the time. For the modification to be minor, it also cannot exceed 24 full days in a calendar year and should be based on an involuntary change in work schedule or change in residence. For a judge to approve a minor modification, there must still be a substantial change, but the above factors do not have to be considered. 

Am I Responsible for the Other Parent’s Attorney’s Fees if the Modification Is Denied?

There are some instances where a judge may order you to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees if you lose your request to modify a parenting plan. For example, if your petition was pursued in bad faith (e.g., to harass the other parent). However, if you had adequate cause for the modification, then you would not be considered to have acted in bad faith. 

To schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Spokane parenting plan lawyers, call Twyford Law Office at (509) 327-0777 or contact us online today.

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