Sharing children as divorced parents has many challenges. Once you’ve divorced someone, you’d assume that you no longer need to interact with them, but sharing children demands otherwise. When divorced parents have to share custody of their minor children, it can be complicated to determine how to approach many common issues. Something as simple as changing a vacation schedule can take hours of negotiation and debate. Making changes to a settled parenting plan may seem daunting. Most parents want to be prudent in custody matters, but the reality is that the summer break typically throws parents a series of wild cards they must contend with or deal with the confusion and chaos that can result from a plan that’s too rigid. As your child gets older, it’s inevitable that your court-ordered custody and visitation plan will need some tweaking. Whether it’s summer athletic activities or family events that won’t fit the custody and visitation plan, parents need options to make the summer months work with the complications of a court-ordered parenting plan.
Can a Custody Agreement be Modified?
Once you have a custody agreement, you have an established visitation and time-sharing plan that governs how you and your ex will share access to your child. Time-sharing plans are not put into place to create obstacles or difficulties for parents. They are in place to protect and respect parental rights and access. Because custody agreements are part of a court order established by a judge and filed through your county court, making permanent changes requires legal action. Changing the terms of a parenting plan and custody agreement requires filing a modification order with the court.
Most states, Maryland included, prefer to avoid minor modifications because changes to a custody order typically require changes to the associated child support award. Changing your child’s schedule to add more overnights in one household while removing them from another could require a reallocation of thousands of dollars in child support. In many cases, changes to your custody plan to accommodate your summer schedule may not rise to the level required to file a modification order through the court system. Thankfully, parenting plans are created with a reasonable amount of flexibility to accommodate these types of changes within a family’s schedule.
Are Modifications Possible Without Returning to Court?
Modification orders require a judge’s signature before they’re filed with the court and validated. Because of the formality of the modification process, you should consider securing legal assistance to file and manage the modification process on your behalf. Summer changes to an existing custody plan may not require a modification if the proposed changes are minor and temporary. Most custody agreements are created to allow it to grow and change as the children in the case age and require a custody and visitation plan that meets their needs. While summer changes made between you and a spouse won’t remain in place once the summer is over, it’s still a good idea to consult with your attorney to document any informal changes.
What Happens if You Can’t Reach an Agreement?
Modifying your custody and visitation plan during the summer months is as easy as creating a schedule you and your co-parent can agree works for everyone involved. If you can’t reach an agreement, then you may be able to petition the court to seek an exception allowing modification of your parenting plan. You could also hire an attorney to provide mediation services.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help
A family law attorney can help you find compromises and limit disagreements as you work to finalize a summer custody plan. A great way to get ahead of any problems is to start as early as possible with your negotiations. It’s also smart to alert your co-parent of your desire to change your agreement for the summer before making any plans. Hopefully, you can reach an agreement, but if not, contact the family law attorneys at Matthew Penick Law today so we can help you meet your legal goals.
Contact us now at (410) 618-0863 to schedule a consultation to review your case.