Whether it has been a few months or several years after you worked out custody and visitation for your minor child, you can usually expect that your circumstances will change at some point in time. As a result, your New York parenting plan may no longer be suitable for your situation. Though you were thorough in determining custody, parenting time for weekdays, weekends, and holidays, the child’s primary residence, and other details, the arrangement cannot continue. You can probably guess that you need to undertake some type of modification to the parenting agreement, but you may not know where to begin with the legal process.
Fortunately, the need to modify a parenting plan is somewhat common, though you should rely on a New York custody and visitation lawyer to tackle the legal issues on your behalf. Some answers to frequently asked questions can provide some general information on the process.
What is a proper basis for modifying a parenting agreement? The New York statute on custody and visitation provides that either parent can petition the court for a modification when there has been a “substantial” change in circumstances. Examples include:
- Where one parent has changed jobs and the schedule is no longer workable;
- The child’s needs have changed, perhaps due to a switch in schools or activities; or,
- One parent has a conflict in the schedule due to other family issues.
The statute is clear that, regardless of what the substantial change may be, any modification to the parenting plan must be in the best interests of the child.
How do I go about the legal process for making changes? When parents can agree to the modification, they can make an alteration or execute a new parenting agreement that encompasses the changes. If you cannot reach a compromise, you must file a petition in court that states:
- The circumstances that require modification;
- The reason that the change is substantial, according to the statutory definition;
- How the modification will serve the child’s best interests; and,
- Other relevant details.
Will I have to go to court to change the parenting plan? If you formulate an agreement regarding the modification, you will still need to go to court to file the document, obtain the judge’s approval, and enter an order regarding the new parenting agreement. In most cases, the lawyers for each parent can handle the essential tasks and you do not need to attend.
When parents cannot agree, the court will hold a hearing on the petition. Much like a trial, you will have the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence. The court will make a determination on whether the modification can proceed.
How does the parenting plan modification affect child support? A new parenting agreement may lead to considerable changes in the time the child spends with each parent. For instance, your original plan according to the New York State child support guidelines was based on the fact that one parent cares for the child 80 percent of the time. Child support may need to be altered if the new arrangement results in that parent spending 60 percent, since the financial need will be lower.
Discuss Modifications with a New York Child Custody and Visitation Attorney
Though these answers to common questions about parenting plan modifications may be helpful, it is critical to retain experienced legal counsel for assistance. Mistakes can be costly and affect your rights as a parent. To learn how our team can help with the process, please call The Mandel Law Firm at (646) 770-3868 or visit our website. We can schedule a consultation at our Manhattan office to review your circumstances and discuss next steps.