Life never stops changing. The things that once worked are not guaranteed to work forever. This is the case with many things, including child custody. In Washington state, if a parent wishes to modify their custody agreement, they must petition the court for a legal modification, which leads to an adequate cause hearing.
When seeking a custody modification, the parent aiming to make the change must file a “Petition for Modification of Adjustment of Child Custody Decree/Parenting Plan.” This petition outlines the changes that are being sought. For the plan to be effective, one must demonstrate a significant difference in circumstances and how the changes will work to better serve the interests of the child.
The change being spotlighted must be a major one in contrast to the original parenting plan. Remarriage or a new sibling does not typically signal the kind of change that justifies an altered custody agreement.
If one parent internationally relocates, or if the parent with custody falls ill and it appears to be terminal, the judge might find that it might benefit the child to make alterations to the custody agreement. An adequate cause hearing will be called so that the court can review all of the facts and make a decision about whether the change is an appropriate one.
What Happens at an Adequate Cause Hearing?
Adequate cause hearings are also referred to as threshold hearings. To modify custody in Washington, a judge must hold an adequate cause hearing in which both parents’ presence is required. The parent calling for the change in custody must show a satisfactory reason for the change.
Both spouses will be asked for evidence in the hearing. The court will review what each of you has to say and take the child’s interest into the utmost consideration.
Why is Parental Attendance Required?
Continuity and stability is typically favored by the courts in Washington state. One of the main goals of child custody agreements is to provide the best, most stable environment possible for the child. Most judges are reluctant to make significant changes to a parenting plan unless the child’s needs dictate it.
Washington courts favor continuity for the children and need real evidence that changes to the agreement will benefit the child. Wash. Rev. Code § 26.09.002 (2020) explains this policy in more detail.
In order to keep parents from using custody plans to harass each other by repeatedly taking each other to court for pointless custody hearings, the parent seeking modification must prove that a good reason exists. This is where the adequate cause hearing comes into play.
The court will review affidavits submitted by each parent explaining their position and evidence. Factors that the judge will take into account are as follows:
For the court to rule in favor of a hearing to modify child custody, the advantages need to be clearly shown to outweigh any negative consequences. The adequate cause hearing exists to provide that the evidence is there to warrant the court taking a closer look at the custodial arrangement’s terms.
Our goal is to ensure you maintain a strong relationship with your child and that they are able to form strong bonds with their siblings and extended family. We are here to support our client’s as they find the best solution for their child’s care. Reach out today if a custody modification is in your child’s future. Cohen Family Law is ready to fight for the best interest of your child.