You may have spent weeks gathering evidence for your custody proceedings or multiple days in mediation creating a parenting plan with your ex to create a workable custody arrangement. The custody order entered by the family law judge presiding over your divorce or formal custody case is an enforceable document that both of you should comply with to the best of your abilities.
Of course, there will eventually come a time when the terms in your parenting plan become so outdated that they no longer work for your family. When you realize that you have to make changes more often than not to your parenting schedule, it may be time to modify your custody order.
How do you make changes to your parenting plan?
Make it official in court
However you intend to alter your parenting arrangements, whether you simply adjust the schedule to account for the new school year or shift how many nights the children spend with each parent, you want to make those changes official when the eyes of the Massachusetts family courts.
Simply agreeing with your ex to certain new terms, even if you agree in writing, will not necessarily protect you from enforcement efforts if they become angry with you later. Additionally, you will not be able to ask for support if they don’t give you that extra parenting time that you negotiated to receive. You have to go to the courts, which will require filing a request for a hearing, to officially update your plan.
You can cooperate or litigate
As with initial custody orders, modifications come in two main varieties. There are litigated or contested modifications where the parents disagree about the necessary changes or if they need changes to the plan at all. Then there are uncontested modification requests where the parents cooperate.
Uncontested proceedings are typically faster, more predictable and less expensive. However, provided you can show a change in circumstances, you may ultimately feel like it is worthwhile to pursue a contested modification even if your ex doesn’t support the proposed changes. Once a judge has reviewed your request and determined that it is in the best interests of your children, you will have a custody order that reflects your current circumstances.
Learning more about the Massachusetts approach to custody modifications will make you a better advocate for your relationship with your children.