How can I modify my child custody or parenting/visitation plan?
In order to modify a current order of custody or a parenting plan that’s in place, you have to start a separate action with the Probate and Family Court called a Complaint for Modification. Before considering filing such an action, there are a few things you should be considering.
Have you spoken with the other parent about it?
Nothing makes the relationship between two parents more contentious than getting served with papers from a lawyer or the court. So before you file, it’s usually a good idea to speak with the other parent about whether or not you two can come together and agree to modify your current parenting arrangement. If you two can agree, then you can make sure it’s in writing and go through the process to get it approved by the Court.
There are certainly situations when you might not want to confront the other parent first. One of those reasons could be that the relationship between you two are so strained that you already know you won’t be able to discuss it without the help of a lawyer or going to court. Another reason could be that you are afraid that the other parent might do something unexpected such as leaving the state or country with the child.
Do you qualify to get a Modification of your order from the Court?
The standard that exists for a court to even consider hearing an action for Modification is that there has to be a material or substantial change in circumstances from the last Order or Judgment of the Court. If there has been no change, and you simply want to change things for its own sake, then your action will be dismissed. Whoever files a Modification must show there’s a change in either of the parties or the child’s circumstances.
Can you do it yourself?
Many people choose to file for a Modification themselves but do eventually end up hiring a lawyer. Issues having to do with custody and parenting plans can be complicated and very emotionally charged. It is better to have a lawyer advise you from the beginning on what you should be doing and how to do it right. Sometimes a lawyer cannot fix what you have already done wrong in the case and by then, it might be too late.