A parenting plan is crucial to defining a parent-child relationship. Here’s how to modify a parenting plan.
A parenting plan encompasses custody, parenting responsibilities, and visitation rights, as well as their child’s education, health care, and physical and mental wellbeing. A parenting plan must also include a schedule of times the child would spend with each parent. The plan must also comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction when covering jurisdictional issues.
A Parenting Plan: The Basics
Whenever a parenting plan is established, approved, or in need of modification, the best interest of the child should be at the center of the conversation. The time-sharing schedule that is created should aim to suit the lifestyle of the child rather than disrupt it. Therefore, it is critical that the parents reach an agreement that works for the child. The primary needs of the child to keep in mind when drafting this agreement are love, protection, and guidance for the child, their maintenance of a healthy diet and lifestyle, good medical care, and plenty of rest so that they can grow and thrive.
The age, personality, and life experience of the child should be taken into consideration as well. The plan should feature careful detail and organization, to create a sense of consistency and stability for the child. However, flexibility to accommodate the parents’ and child’s changing needs and circumstances should also be practiced. Aside from incidents of abuse or violence, each parent should have the opportunity to obtain information about their child, call them, have access to their school and medical records, and the other parent’s contact information to ease this process and the execution of the parenting plan that follows.
More advice for parents to consider when drafting a plan in California can be found here.
Forms to Use When Modifying a Parenting Plan
In order for a parenting plan to be approved by the court, it must include:
- A detailed outline on how each parent will help the child fulfill their daily tasks,
- A schedule that indicates the specific amount of time the child will spend with each parent,
- Assignment of which parent will be responsible for the health care and education of the child,
- Medium by which the parents will communicate with each other and the child on a regular basis (relative to this agreement), and
- A completed California Uniform Child Custody Visitation Order Attachment (Form FL-341) and the Child Custody Visitation Application Attachment (Form FL-311).
Additional forms to consult when devising a parenting plan in California include:
- Supervised Visitation Order (Form FL-341(A))
- Child Abduction Prevention Order Attachment (Form FL-341(B))
- Children’s Holiday Schedule Attachment (Form FL-341(C))
- Additional Provisions— Physical Custody Attachment (Form FL-341 (D))
- Joint Legal Custody Attachment (Form 341 (E))
Key Terms to Keep in Mind
Some common terms relative to the creation and modification of a parenting plan are:
Time-sharing schedule: A schedule that explicitly details which dates and times (including holidays) that the child will spend with each parent. If the child is a minor, the court will have to approve of the timetable. If the parents do not reach an agreement, the court will curate this schedule.
Sole parental responsibility: A court-ordered relationship where one parent has the sole caretaking and decision-making authority for their minor child.
Shared parental responsibility: A court-ordered relationship where both parents have joint responsibility in caring for and making decisions for their minor child. Both parents will communicate together before making major decisions in the child’s life.
Once a parenting plan is created, how is it modified?
If the child has difficulty adapting to an enacted plan or areas of disagreement arise between the parents, the parenting plan can be modified. If a current plan is not working well for any reason, parents and their representation can assess which areas of the agreement need to be changed. Perhaps the parents disagreed over certain tenets of the agreement once it was in practice, or they noticed that their agreed-upon schedule is harder to execute in daily life. Furthermore, the child’s needs may evolve as they get older, leading to a parenting plan becoming out-of-date. In any of these situations, an advisable next step for parents would be to revise their plan.
Parents can begin this process by meeting with each other and a counselor to make the necessary changes. It is important for both parents to be on the same page, in the same way, that they were when the original plan was made. If these alterations to the plan cannot be made amicably, the issue may need to be resolved using a mediator or by going to court. Family law facilitators, who are listed by county, can provide more information on local family court procedures and necessary forms to complete.
If one parent does not readily agree to the proposed changes, the other parent must request a court hearing and complete Form FL-300. The parent will need to explain why the proposed changes are necessary, in writing, as verbal testimony in these matters is often limited. Judges will rely on this paperwork in making their decision about the modifications. The filing parent should take the following steps in submitting their request to modify a parenting plan:
- Make 2 copies of Form FL-300,
- File their form with the local clerk,
- Receive their court date,
- Serve the papers to the other parent,
- File for proof of service, and
- Attend the court hearing.
More information and strategies for parents to use when navigating this process in California can be found here.
How much does it cost to modify a parenting plan?
The costs associated with modifying a parenting plan can vary based on the county and the nature of the changes made. Typically, if a petition to change a parenting plan is filed in the same county in which it was made, the court will charge a $30-$56 fee. If the filing is done in a different county, or under a new case number, the fee could range from $200-$205.
More information on how to file for a change in a custody order and ask for a court hearing in California can be found here.