After a divorce is settled, a family’s needs can evolve due to life transitions that make a parenting plan or child support order unworkable. While it is possible to seek modifications, it takes a skilled family law attorney to protect your parental rights. At Cohen Family Law, LLC, our Clark County parenting plan and child support lawyers are equipped with the knowledge and experience to help you obtain or prevent a change to your parenting plan or child support order. Call (360) 953-5000 or contact us online today for a free consultation.
A parenting plan and child support attorney can advise you on whether your change in circumstance warrants a modification, walk you through the process of filing for a modification, and represent you in conciliation conferences and court hearings. An attorney knows the rules and procedures required under state law and can save you a lot of time and frustration if you must file for a modification.
If you and your former partner cannot agree to proposed changes in a conciliation conference (similar to mediation), the matter will have to be decided by a judge. Successfully convincing a court to change an existing parenting plan or child support order will depend on the legal arguments of your case. Having an experienced parenting plan and child support attorney by your side to ensure that the details of your case are argued appropriately is vital to your success.
You may need to modify a court order if:
Before initiating a modification to a parenting plan, the parents should try to communicate and work out a mutually acceptable agreement. However, it is best to have the change legally approved to ensure the agreement is enforceable later. Although the court process can be time-consuming and a headache, you and your children will have legal protection available if your former partner breaks your oral agreement.
To modify a parenting plan, you must convince a judge that there has been a substantial change. The parent seeking a modification must file legal forms with the court in Washington, including a “Petition for Modification of Adjustment of Child Custody Decree/Parenting Plan.” The parent must specify the modifications they are seeking, the substantial change that has occurred since the original parenting plan was entered, and how it is in the child’s best interests.
A judge will schedule a hearing to determine if there is adequate cause to change custody terms. In an “adequate cause hearing,” also known as a “threshold hearing,” a judge will hear the parent’s case who is requesting a modification. Both parents will have the opportunity to present evidence that either supports or opposes the proposed changes. The judge will follow the principle of what is in the child’s best interests, as well as consider the following:
If the judge finds that the advantages of a modification outweigh the negatives, they will probably allow it. If the parents can agree on the changes, presenting an “Agreed Order” will end the case. If they do not, the judge may grant the changes to be temporarily in place while the case proceeds mediation, and from there, either an agreement or a trial.
To modify a child support order in Washington State, there are two ways you can proceed.
Filing this motion is often a quicker and easier solution that typically only takes a single hearing to settle the matter. However, this motion can only be filed if it has been two years since the initial order and either your or your former spouse’s income has changed.
This petition can be filed if one year has passed since the initial order and the payments are causing you or your child severe financial hardship. Other reasons include your child turning 18 but is still finishing high school or if your economic circumstances have drastically changed.
If it has been less than a year since the initial child support order, you must prove to the court that there has been a significant change in your economic circumstances to warrant the requested modification.
After filing the appropriate legal forms with the court, the next step is serving the other parent a summons, a copy of the motion or petition, and the applicable worksheets. Once served, the other parent has 20 days to respond if they live in Washington or 60 days if they live outside the state. If there is no response, the court may rule in your favor by default.
If the other parent does respond, either party can schedule a hearing. The judge will hear arguments and evidence from both sides then make a ruling on the proposed modification.
The processes for modifying a parenting plan or child support order are complicated. It is vital to your case’s success to have the strongest possible argument and the evidence to support it. Contact Cohen Family Law, LLC to discuss your legal options and how our parenting plan and child support lawyers can protect your rights. We offer free consultations; email us or call (360) 953-5000 today.