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Common Questions Regarding Major Parenting Plan Modifications:
What Is The Difference Between A Major Parenting Plan Modification and Other Types of Parenting Plan Changes? In Washington, RCW 26.09.260 is the primary statute governing parenting plan modifications. The detailed statute creates two subsets of modifications: minor modifications (also called adjustments) and major modifications. As the names imply, minor modifications are less significant, more easily obtainable modifications. Major modifications can change custody and are notoriously difficult to obtain.
Why Are Major Modifications So Difficult? Major parenting plan modifications are difficult to obtain for two main reasons. First and foremost, they are custody battles, and parties tend to fight hardest with child custody on the line. Second, major modifications present challenges procedurally because of the law’s preference for stability over change. It takes a stronger argument to change custody than to gain it initially.
What Do I Need to Prove To Win A Major Modification? To win a major modification case, the petitioner needs to prove that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, and that it is now in the best interests of the child to modify the parenting plan. Additionally, the petitioner needs to demonstrate one of the following five factors applies:
- The petitioner and the child’s custodian (primary care parent) agree to the modification;
- The child has consistently spent significantly more time with the petitioning parent than the parenting plan allocated;
- The petitioner’s home has become much safer than that of the custodian (primary care parent);
- The custodian (primary care parent) has been in contempt of court two times in three years for failure to follow the residential sections of the parenting plan; or
- A criminal court found the custodian (primary care parent) guilty of custodial interference.
If the Military Deploys Me, Can That Be A Substantial Enough Change for Me to Lose Custody? No, military duties cannot, in themselves, be reason enough for a major parenting plan modification.
Can I Request a Major Modification if I Have Not Completed Court-Ordered Parenting Evaluations or Treatment? Yes, so long as your request qualifies as a major modification rather than a minor modification of the residential provisions of your parenting plan. This is because major modifications tend to be the result of more serious concerns than minor modifications. For example, a major modification might ensue from a primary custodian’s drug relapse, which might be a serious enough concern to outweigh your unfinished evaluation or treatment.