Modifying Court Orders
No parenting plan lasts forever. As your children grow, their needs and interests change, and parents must adapt. The passage of time brings change for parents, as well: new career challenges, relationships, and concerns for their own aging parents. In the normal course of life, you can expect to revisit and amend your parenting plan every three years or so. However, there are also circumstances which are out of the ordinary that can prompt you to seek a modification of your order. At the Law Office of Phil Hineman, P.C., we can help you petition the court to change your child custody order or defend the status quo.
Grounds for Modifying Parenting Time in Arizona
To modify a parenting plan court order, you must have substantial evidence that this is what is best for your child. In fact, the Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-411 (F) direct the court to punish a party whose petition for modification “is distressing and constitutes harassment” by ordering that person to pay the other party’s legal fees. You should also be aware that, under A.R.S. § 25-411 (C), a court “shall not restrict a parent’s parenting time rights unless it finds that the parenting time would seriously endanger the minor child(ren)’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.”
With that in mind, here are a few reasons the court would modify an existing parenting time plan:
- A custodial parent has become unfit due to a circumstance such as substance abuse
- A custodial parent has committed physical, verbal, or sexual abuse of the child
- Contact with a person in a custodial parent’s household is detrimental to the child
- The child has developed special needs that a custodial parent cannot meet
- A custodial parent is no longer able to provide an appropriate residence for the child
- A custodial parent wants to relocate with the child out of state or to a destination that would burden the parenting time of the other parent
- A custodial parent is actively interfering with the parenting time of a noncustodial parent
- A noncustodial parent has completed the necessary steps to assume part-time custody
Parties must come to court fully prepared to present facts that support their case. Because of the potential ramifications under the above statutes, it is critically important to consult an experienced child custody attorney rather than simply filing a motion on your own.
The Court Order Modification Process
There are two ways to modify your parenting time plan:
- By agreement outside of court; or
- At a court hearing after filing a Petition to Modify a Court Order for Parenting Time or Parenting Time and Child Support.
The first process is much less adversarial. You and the other parent admit that your current parenting plan doesn’t fit your family’s needs and agree to negotiate a new plan or enter family law mediation to develop a new plan. When you reach an agreement, you draw up a new parenting time plan and present it to the court for approval.
Unfortunately, parents do not always agree that amending a parenting time plan is necessary. This is especially true when one parent alleges that the other is unfit. The petitioning parent must file a motion and the court will hear the case. The motion must give reasons why legal decision-making or parenting time should be altered. The court may issue a temporary order of modification as it investigates the allegations further. Often, an accused parent is limited to supervised visitation for a period of time. The case may continue for several months before the court is ready to rule.