Often following a divorce or judgment of parental rights and responsibilities, whether through just the passage of time or events, the circumstances of the parties and child(ren) change. In such situations, either party may file a Motion to Modify the Divorce Judgment or a Judgment of Parental Rights and Responsibilities with respect to parental rights and responsibilities, primary residence, parent-child contact and/or child support.
The party filing the motion will need to show that there has been a substantial change of circumstances. However, if child support is the only modification requested, then one only needs to show that it has been three years or longer since the child support order was last issued or modified. If it has been less than three years, the party will need to show that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred.
A parent may wish to consider filing a Motion to Modify Parental Rights and Responsibilities if, for instance, the parties have shared parental rights and responsibilities in the current Court orders and are no longer able to co-parent. Having shared parental rights and responsibilities (joint decision-making) usually necessitates that the parties communicate with one another to make parenting decisions either in person, by telephone or in writing. In some situations, this is not possible, resulting in the parties being unable to agree on decisions that need to be made for the child(ren) in a timely manner. When this situation arises, a parent may wish to bring a motion seeking to change shared parental rights and responsibilities to sole parental rights and responsibilities, or in the alternative they may request Allocated Parental Rights and Responsibilities. A Court may allocate parental rights and responsibilities to provide each parent with separate parenting “tasks” (i.e., one parent may have decision-making responsibility for education, and another may have decision-making responsibility for medical decisions, etc.) This allows both parents to continue to make parenting decisions without requiring an agreement from the other parent. Sole parental rights allows one parent to make the parenting decisions.
In some situations, an order for primary residence or a shared primary residence may no longer be working in the child or children’s best interest. For instance, one parent may have relocated resulting in significantly greater travel distance between houses. Other changes could include a new work schedule of a parent, increased conflict in the household or the children’s needs and wishes may have changed. Sometimes the parent-child contact schedule may benefit from being modified either to be more specific or more flexible to alleviate ongoing confusion and conflict between the parents.
If you are contemplating bringing a Motion to Modify, it is best to first consult with an attorney.