In Washington, RCW 26.09.260 governs the modification of parenting plans. Once a final parenting plan has been entered by the Court, modification of the parenting plan typically requires Court action. There is a strong presumption in favor of continuing the current parenting plan. Accordingly, the Court requires parties to meet a threshold standard (called “adequate cause”) before the case can even move forward (i.e., before there can be any changes made to the parenting plan—even on a temporary basis).
Parenting plan modifications are classified either as major modifications or minor modifications, each with different threshold requirements. Requests for a change of primary custody are considered major modifications. The moving party will need to prove a major modification request falls within one of the following categories: parties’ agreement; integration into the other parent’s household; that the present environment is detrimental to the child’s well-being; or that the non-moving parent has been found in contempt for failure to comply with the residential provisions of the parenting plan twice within the last three years. Additionally, in a major modification, the moving party must also prove: (1) based upon facts that have arisen since the entry of the Final Parenting Plan, a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or the nonmoving party (nonmoving party); (2) the child’s best interests will be served by modification; and (3) the harm caused by the change of custody is outweighed by the advantage of a change in custody. RCW 26.09.260 (1)–(2).
A minor parenting plan modification—which, as the name implies, is less significant and is therefore a more easily obtainable modification—is one which does not change where the child resides the majority of the time, does not exceed 24 full days per year, or is based on changes of residence/work schedule which makes the current parenting plan impractical. To meet the threshold for a minor modification, a party need only show a substantial change of circumstances for either parent or the child(ren). Minor modifications are often used to adjust pick-up/drop-off times, transportation arrangements, or address the non-residential provisions, or to clarify certain provisions in the final parenting plan.
Modification actions—particularly major modifications—are typically among the hardest fought and most expensive cases any given client is likely to face in his or her lifetime. Diligent, experienced legal representation is a must in such cases. The attorneys and staff at the Berner Law Group, PLLC are caring, tenacious, and aggressive in handling parenting plan modification actions. Contact Berner Law Group, PLLC to speak with a parenting plan modification lawyer/attorney in Snohomish County today! We’re conveniently located directly across the street from the Snohomish County Superior Court in downtown Everett.