How to Modify a Parenting Plan in Washington

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How to Modify a Parenting Plan in Washington
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 7/5/2021

BLOGPOST_ParentingPlans_07052021.jpgJust because a visitation schedule worked when your child was 8-years old does not mean that the same Parenting Plan will work when your child is 13-years old. Fortunately, Washington law allows parents to alter the day-to-day schedule and all other portions of the Parenting Plan whenever they want. Like everything, there are rules as to the circumstances under which a Court will grant such a request. To figure out the rules, we look towards RCW 26.09.260.

Get an Agreement.
Here is the easy way. If both parents agree a change should be made, the Court will tend to rubberstamp updated Orders, including a Parenting Plan. Filing a Petition with joinder from the other parent is simple, and typically within a week or two, the officially updated Parenting Plan will be signed by the judge.

Establish Adequate Cause.
If parents do not agree on the substance requiring alteration, the contested litigation will continue to an Adequate Cause hearing. After filing the Petition and serving the pleadings on the opposing party, typically (but not always) the petitioner will file a Notice for Motion scheduling an Adequate Cause hearing. The hearing must be set after the deadline for the respondent to respond to the Petition (typically 20-days).

During the hearing, the commissioner focuses on one question: Does the petitioner have adequate cause for their case to continue towards trial? The Court will look to determine whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original Parenting Plan (and not anticipated at the time of the original Order). Specifically, the Court will retain the original schedule unless:

(1) The child was integrated into the petitioner’s family with the consent of the other party in substantial deviation from the Parenting Plan.

(2) The child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.

(3) The Court has found the nonmoving parent in contempt of court at least twice within three years because the parent failed to comply with residential provisions in the Court-ordered Parenting Plan, or the parent was convicted of custodial interference in the first or second degree under RCW 9!.40.060 or 9A.40.070.

The only way to avoid one needing to establish one of these three findings during an adequate cause hearing is if you are only making a request for a minor modification. Under RCW 26.09.260(5), a minor modification may be made by instead proving a substantial change in circumstances in cases:

(1) Where the schedule change does not exceed 24-full days in a calendar year.

(2) Based on the relocation of the non-residential parent or an involuntary change in work schedule by a parent that makes the Parenting Plan impractical.

(3) Where the change does not result in a schedule that exceeds 90-overnights per year in total, if the Court finds that, at the time of the modification, the original orders do not provide reasonable time with the non-residential parent and if the Court finds the increased time is in the child’s best interests.

There are, of course, additional exceptions and rules to follow. But, knowing the main arguments necessary to change a Parenting Plan is half the battle. At the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S., we are dedicated to helping our clients understand their rights and obligations. Washington law can be tricky, and we are here to provide great representation. Call today for a free case evaluation.

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