by Martin Mazezka
Your life will certainly change in eighteen years, but you don’t have to be stuck with the same parenting plan until your child reaches adulthood. West Virginia law allows for the modification of a parenting plan in certain situations. Filing for modification of a parenting plan should not go without deep thought. Before filing for modification of your parenting plan, you should discuss your situation with your co-parent. Good communication between co-parents is important to a child’s stability. Our firm strongly encourages you to try and work things out with your co-parent before getting the court involved; however, if you cannot come to an agreement with your co-parent, you should always consider the following before filing for modification of your parenting plan:
Is your current parenting plan working?
The first thing you should ask yourself is whether or not your current parenting plan is working. If either parent demonstrates an inability to carry out his or her parenting time, or if a parent feels that his or her level of involvement, or lack thereof, is detrimental to the child’s wellbeing, then modification of your current parenting plan may be the right move. Alternatively, if your child is flourishing under your current parenting plan and change may disrupt that, then modification of your parenting plan should raise serious doubt. It’s always important to give your child’s welfare the utmost priority.
Will my proposed parenting plan work?
If you come to the conclusion that your parenting plan is not working, you must consider whether your proposed parenting plan will accommodate the parents’ and the child’s needs. It is a good strategy to anticipate potential changes that can affect parenting, such as a child becoming involved in extracurricular activities or a change in a parent’s work hours. Your parenting plan must provide stability to your child’s life. It’s important to make a clear, concise plan to avoid any foreseeable disagreements between yourself and your co-parent. Each provision in the parenting plan, such as setting specific exchange times or instructions on how the parties may communicate with each other or the child, should be unambiguous.
What conditions need to exist for my parenting plan to be modified?
Although West Virginia law provides more than one situation which would call for modification of a parenting plan, the majority of cases require a “substantial change in circumstance” of either parent or your child since the entry of your current parenting plan. If you and your co-parent cannot agree on a parenting plan, the burden will be on the parent requesting a modification to prove a substantial change in circumstance has occurred.
What is a substantial change in circumstance you ask? Nobody is certain. It’s a vague phrase, and your family court judge will make the decision of whether or not a substantial change in circumstance has occurred. West Virginia statutory law lists situations that do not constitute a substantial change in circumstance, including a parent’s involuntary loss of income, a parent’s remarriage or cohabitation, and a parent’s reasonable caretaking decision, such as placing a child in daycare.
Some instances which may constitute a substantial change in circumstance include the advancement in the age of a child, a child’s preference to spend more time with a parent, danger to the emotional and physical safety of a child, or the birth of a sibling. However, this is not an exhaustive list, and the family court judge will have the discretion in ruling whether or not the life change of your child or either party is a substantial change in circumstance. Along with the finding that a substantial change in circumstance has occurred, you must also prove that a modification of the parenting plan will be in your child’s best interests.
How can we help you?
Child custody can be emotionally straining for a parent. We can help reduce some of the stress that comes with custody issues and provide valuable guidance throughout the proceedings. A court’s ruling on child custody will not only impact your relationship with your child until he or she reaches adulthood but, possibly, for the rest of your and your child’s lives.
Our attorneys can help you file your motion to modify custody and create a parenting plan that will best fit your child’s needs. We can also effectively present your case, if it should go to family court. It’s important to have someone in your corner who is experienced in child custody matters and can clearly convey your case to the court. Our firm is committed to fight to preserve the important relationship between you and your child.