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Updating a Parenting Agreement: When and How

| Mar 28, 2018 | Family Law, Rapier & Bowling

If you share parenting with a former spouse or partner, you probably created a parenting agreement when you separated. As you know, life changes as kids grow up. Your parenting needs can change, too. At some point, you will likely need to update your parenting agreement.

When to Update a Parenting Agreement

A judge looks at the best interests of the children as they consider parenting plans and make a decision. As with many other documents, there are often times when a parenting agreement will need updating. Here are several reasons that you might need to update your agreement:

  • One of the parents moves or plans a move;
  • A child starts school, changes schools, or graduates;
  • Safety issues arise in a one parent’s home;
  • There’s a major change in a parent’s life that will affect the child (marriage, a job change, attending school);
  • A change in visitation schedules; or
  • Someone isn’t following the already approved schedule.

A parenting agreement that works for an infant likely will not work perfectly for a pre-teen or teenager.  It’s not uncommon for a parenting agreement to be updated when a child is older and can express their desire to live with one parent or the other.For a major modification, you’ll have to prove to a judge that the change is necessary and in the best interest of your child. Minor modifications don’t involve changes in who the child lives with.

What is the Process of Updating a Parenting Agreement?

There are a couple of ways to update your parenting agreement. The first is by coming to a mutual agreement with your child’s other parent. If you and your co-parent cannot agree, you’ll have to get the courts involved. Then a judge may send you to a mediator. If the mediation fails to bring an agreement, a judge will make the final decision.To make changes to this legal document and make sure they’ll stick, you will have to file a petition to modify the final parenting agreement. That’s the first step. You’ll then attend a hearing where you and your child’s other parent will speak to the judge.If possible, come to a mutual agreement without assistance from outside entities. But, even if you and your co-parent agree on everything, you’ll still have to go before a family court judge to get the document approved and entered into the legal record.The next option is to work with a professional mediator to come to a plan that both parties can agree with and abide by. If that fails, a judge will weigh all of the factors in a hearing and make the decision.

The Role of Parenting Classes

The judge will sometimes order, as part of a parenting agreement or part of a divorce decree, that parents attend a parenting education class. This isn’t always the case, but some sources, like this article from The Spruce, note that attending this sort class can improve your chances of gaining custody, if that’s your goal, or of increasing the time you spend with your child if that’s your goal. There are different types of parenting classes, all with slightly different goals. You can expect lessons on conflict resolution, and how to work together. These classes may make it easier to create a modified parenting agreement that both sides can agree to.

Moving Forward

Once you have completed the steps outlined by the judge, including required classes and mediation, if that’s the case, the judge will make a decision on whether the courts will accept the modified parenting agreement, or what modifications they believe are in the best interest of the child. They may tell you to go back to the drawing board and work a bit more to create a revised plan.If you’re looking for an attorney that can help you with family law cases involving parenting agreements, contact Rapier & Bowling Co., LPA today. We would love to help you achieve the plan that helps you spend quality time with your children.       PHOTO: U.S. Air Force / CC0 Public Domain

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