Following a separation, the process of reaching a divorce property settlement can be challenging for couples. There is a property settlement time limit to consider, and the property pool needs to be fairly divided. But that’s just the start and many couples also have to establish parenting arrangements for their children.

A parenting plan is a vital aspect that parents need to address together before presenting it to a judge for a consent order. This parenting order outlines the child’s living arrangements, the time spent with each parent or grandparents, and who will make significant life decisions. It also covers communication methods between parents when the child is with someone else and every aspect of the child’s development, care, and welfare.

The primary focus when creating parenting orders should always be the best interests of the child or children involved. Ideally, both parents should collaborate to develop a mutually agreeable plan that only requires a judge’s approval to become legally binding. Here’s what you need to know about making modifications to your parenting orders

Circumstances Under Which Modifications Are Granted 

You can make changes to a parenting order, but to do so you have to be able to show significant circumstance changes that would warrant such a change. Significant changes could include criminal charges, a new partner, serious health issues, a change in living arrangements, a successful rehabilitation, or a child expressing a desire for change. 

Before a change can be made, the court will consider the earlier decision and the evidence used to make the decision, but they will also consider the child’s best interests and how much time has passed since the original order was made. 

Seeking Changes: The Process 

If both parties agree to the changes, they simply need to submit a new consent order that reflects the relevant changes. If the changes are made with the child’s best interests in mind the court will confirm the new order with no issue. 

If both parties have not come to an agreement, you can seek a family dispute resolution to attend mediation to agree to a new order. However, the parent who wants to make changes to the order could also file a new application. Applying to the court for a change is the last resort, you should always seek to resolve the dispute through mediation first. 

This should not be done without seeking expert legal advice first. A lawyer will be able to advise you if your change in circumstances is sufficient enough to be considered significant enough by the court to make a change to the order. If necessary, you may need to provide documentation and evidence of your changes in circumstances. Whether it is producing financial information, parenting plans, or affidavits. 

Factors Considered by the Court 

The court has to be satisfied there are significant changes that make changing a parenting order the right decision. The court will always fall on the side of the child involved. While the child’s wishes will be taken into consideration, depending on their age, the court has to consider the ability of each parent to provide adequate care.

So, if one parent was dealing with addiction but has gotten sober or the opposite is true, this could be reason enough to change the parenting order. Additionally, mental health issues, big moves, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, imprisonment, failure to comply with parenting orders, and dramatic changes in living circumstances can all prove significant enough to alter the parenting order.

Legal Considerations and Professional Support 

Family law is complex and laypersons cannot be expected to understand the complicated ins and outs that come with each process. You don’t want to put your children at risk or enter into a costly court battle when there is no need to do so. Seeking legal advice can help keep you on the right side of the law and help you maintain a friendly co-parenting relationship with your child’s other parent. 

If you file with the court to make changes to a parenting order and you do not have the appropriate evidence or a valid basis for your petition, your case will be dismissed. Moreover, you may be forced to foot the legal costs of the other parent. This is why you should always seek legal advice first. 

It’s always wise to meet with a family lawyer before you take any kind of action. A family lawyer can assess your circumstances and provide you with valuable advice. 

Final thoughts 

You need evidence to back up your desire to alter a parenting plan, so you need to consult with a lawyer before you petition the court. A lawyer will provide you with advice on what supporting evidence will be required to make your case. However, a reputable family law firm will guide you through the mediation process to help you come to a resolution quickly and with as little stress as possible. 

Whether you are in need of assistance coming to a family law property settlement after separation or you need advice on how to proceed with a parenting order change, AJB Stevens can provide you with the legal guidance you need.