A Petition to Change a Parenting Plan may become necessary after a final parenting plan has been entered.
Types of Modifications:
There are two types of modifications in a parenting case: (1) minor and (2) major.
A minor modification only allows a parent to increase his/her residential time by twenty-four full calendar days. However, the court may allow for an increase up to ninety overnights if the court finds that the current parenting plan does not provide the requesting party with reasonable parenting time and if the increased time serves the best interests of the child.
A major modification allows a complete revision of the parenting plan. That means that custody can completely switch if the case is reopened.
Unfortunately, that is not always an easy process. Before a court will reopen a parenting case, the parties have to attend an "adequate cause" hearing.
Adequate Cause Hearing:
An "adequate cause" hearing is essentially a mini-trial where the requesting party is required to prove a legal basis for re-opening the case. At this hearing, the moving party must present evidence that a modification should take place. Similarly, at this hearing, the non-moving party must be prepared to provide evidence in order to defend against re-opening the case. Evidence can take many forms but frequently parties utilize texts, emails, police reports, and declarations from witnesses. If the Court allows for the case to be reopened, then a new trial date will be scheduled.
Typically, parents will request a temporary parenting plan and/or child support while the case is pending trial. Additionally, some parents may want to request that a Guardian Ad Litem, Parenting Evaluator, or Court Appointed Special Advocate be appointed to investigate the best interests of the children. Trial is usually scheduled a year after the the petition for modification has been filed; therefore, the temporary orders have a significant impact on the final parenting plan.
Once temporary orders are put in place, then the case will proceed to the investigative stage. During the investigative stage, both parties will gather evidence to use at trial. This may mean that the parties will engage in discovery which may include interrogatories, requests for production, depositions, etc.
Typically, the parents are required to settle the case without going to trial. There are exceptions for cases where domestic violence may prevent a mediation from occurring. The parties must select an agreed-upon mediator and set aside time to try to negotiate and finalize a modified parenting plan. If the parties are successful, the final orders will be prepared and presented to the Court. If an agreement cannot be made then the case will proceed to trial.
At trial both parents will present his/her case to a judge. The length of the trial will depend on the amount of evidence that needs to be introduced and the number of witnesses that need to testify. Frequently, the admission of evidence may have a significant impact on the case; therefore, an attorney will be utilized in bringing the correct objections as to the admissibility of certain evidence. For example, if the opposing party is trying to introduce your private medical records, then you may want to seek legal advice to try to stop these records from being considered. After each side presents their case, the judge will make a decision and enter final orders.