One of the most common questions I receive as a family law attorney is, “when is the best time to modify my parenting plan”. My response is always, what is your goal or the hopeful outcome of the modification. In general, a party may modify the terms of a parenting plan (schedule, transportation, exchange location, etc.) with a simple showing that it is in the best interest of the minor child(ren), defined under ORC §3109.04. However, even if the facts support a modification of a parenting plan, a parent considering returning to court to modify a prior order should consider the following:
- How long has the parenting plan been in place? If the parenting plan was issued within the last twelve months the Court is less likely to modify the terms, absent a showing of significant malfeasance by one party.
- Have you satisfied the mediation provision within the parenting plan? The vast majority of shared parenting plans require the parties to attempt a minimum of three mediation sessions prior to filing a motion to modify in Court. You should check the specific provision within your plan as to the requirements. Most Domestic Relations Courts in Ohio provide a mediation service through the Court or a referral to a competent mediator.
- What is the likelihood of achieving my goals if I file the motion to modify the parenting plan? Often, after completing a consultation with a prospective client, we are able to identify other options for a prospective client to pursue, such as improved communication techniques, or counseling, which resolve the nagging issue without the time and expense of filing a motion. While out of court remedies may not always resolve the issues, they do provide additional evidence to the court that the party requesting the modification has acted reasonably to attempt to resolve the issue before “rushing” to the Court. This will bolster the parent’s credibility, which in many cases, is the deciding factor in family law cases.
- Do you have all the evidence necessary for mediation or the filing of the motion? If the motion involves a change of residential parent for school purposes, do you have the documentation regarding the school comparison; the student’s past grades; communication attempts with opposing party regarding this issue, etc. The success of your motion is directly related to the joint effort of both you and your attorney. The party who appears in court prepared and educated with facts regarding the contested issue is more likely to be satisfied with the result.
Lastly, if you are considering filing a motion to modify your parenting plan, please seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney in the County in which the motion will be filed. If you file don’t consult an attorney and file a motion at the wrong time, with the wrong intent or without the proper preparation, you will likely lose your motion and potentially delay if not eliminate future opportunities to address the parenting issue.