Are you a divorced or separated parent of young children or teenagers? You are far from alone. The Pew Research Center reports that more than half of U.S. children have divorced or separated parents. You may have a parenting plan that outlines rights and responsibilities regarding child custody and visitation. In North Carolina, a parenting plan is legally binding. However, it can be changed (modified) in certain circumstances. Here, our Monroe family law attorney highlights the most important things you should know about changing a parenting plan in North Carolina.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents outlining the custody and visitation arrangements for their children after a separation or divorce. It is an important document in a custody/visitation case—especially if there are disagreements between co-parents. Among other things, the parenting plan may include provisions related to schedule for time-sharing, holidays and vacations, and decision-making regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and other important matters. The goal of a parenting plan is to promote the best interests of the child while minimizing conflict between the parents.
North Carolina Law: Parenting Plan May Be Changed
It is important to understand that parenting plans are always subject to change in North Carolina. State policy recognizes that the needs of parents and families can, and often do, shift over time. North Carolina law allows for changes to be made to a parenting plan in certain circumstances. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.7, any custody arrangement, including a parenting plan, “may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested.”
Two Categories of Parenting Plan Modifications in North Carolina
Here is an overview of the two broad categories of parenting plan modification cases in Union County:
- Agreement for a Parenting Plan Modification:
- No Agreement for a Parenting Plan Modification:
When both parents agree on the proposed modification to the parenting plan, they can submit a written agreement to the court for approval. This agreement should outline the changes being made to the plan, the reasons for the modification, and how the new plan will be implemented. If the court finds the agreement to be in the best interests of the child, it can be approved and become a court order. When parents agree, it is generally pretty easy to change a parenting plan.
When the parents do not agree on a proposed modification to the parenting plan, they may need to go to court to resolve the dispute. The parent requesting the modification will need to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances since the original plan was established. The court will evaluate the proposed modification based on the best interests of the child and may order a hearing to gather evidence and testimony from both parents.
Best Interests of the Child Always Come First in Parenting Plan Modification Disputes
When a dispute arises over the modification of a parenting plan, the best interests of the child are always the primary consideration used to resolve the case. If the matter goes before a court, that court is empowered to evaluate a variety of factors—including the child’s age, health, and relationships with each parent—to determine what is in the child’s best interests. All parents should be prepared to demonstrate that their proposed parenting plan modifications are in the best interests of their child.
A North Carolina Family Attorney Can Help You Navigate a Modification
Getting a parenting plan modified can be complicated—particularly so if you do not have an agreement with your co-parent. Though, even a negotiated parenting plan change can still be challenging. If you are seeking a modification to a parenting plan in Union County, it is imperative that you work with an experienced Monroe family law attorney. Your lawyer will protect your parental rights and help navigate the child custody/visitation modification process.
Consult With Our Monroe, NC Family Lawyer Today
At Plyler, Long & Corigliano, LLP, our North Carolina family lawyers have the professional expertise that you can rely on. If you have any questions about modifying child custody or visitation, we are here to help. Give us a call now or connect with us online for a no obligation case review. From our Monroe office, we represent parents in Union County and throughout the area, including in Union County, Mecklenburg County, Anson County, Stanly County, and Montgomery County.