At the end of your separation, divorce or custody case in New Mexico, you will receive a final parenting plan. This plan can be crafted by the judge in your child’s best interests if you and your co-parent can’t agree, or it might be based on arrangements you and your co-parent agreed upon. While this plan is often viewed as the “final” plan for the family, you can have it modified when circumstances change and the modifications are necessary.
When Are Changes Necessary?
Long after a divorce, separation or custody case, families continue to change and move through different phases as time marches on. Because of this, certain parts of your parenting plan may need to transition into new agreements that reflect the family’s needs as they are now and not what they were when the plan was made.
Modifications to a parenting plan are usually sparked by common life changes, such as:
• Children growing older, which changes their needs
• The relocation of a parent
• A new work schedule for one parent
• A parent losing his or her income and not meeting his or her financial obligations
• The child’s safety being at risk when he or she is with one parent
A parenting plan may also need modification if it’s not being followed as written. Your family’s behavior and activity should reflect what is in your parenting plan. Even if you both agree to changes, it’s always better to have them legally documented so there are no problems later. Speak to your family law attorney for assistance in getting the plan changed.
What If the Co-Parents Don’t Agree?
If you can’t come to an agreement with your co-parent about the parenting plan changes, you will probably have to go to court. Contact your family law attorney to ensure that you have valid grounds to ask for a modification and for assistance in getting one. Courts are naturally hesitant to make parenting plan changes because stability is viewed as being in a child’s best interests, so if your reason for modification isn’t considered significant by the court or you can’t demonstrate the need properly, it’s unlikely you will be granted the changes you are requesting. This is why it’s important to speak to an attorney about the changes you want made to your current parenting plan before you go to court or file any paperwork.
How Do You Show the Court That a Change Is Needed?
What type of evidence you will need to back up your request for a modification will depend on what you want changed and why. If your co-parent has a new job that will interfere with his or her parenting time as shown on the plan, for example, proof of the new schedule from the employer can serve as evidence. If one parent wants to relocate, proof of that plan and an outline of how the move will impact the current parenting plan is necessary.
In situations where one parent is concerned about the child’s safety when he or she is with the other parent, proof is naturally harder to obtain if no abuse or neglect has been formally documented by a local agency or law enforcement. Testimony from people close to the family, such as a child’s teacher or doctor, may be necessary.
Having a parenting plan modified in New Mexico isn’t always easy, particularly when the parents don’t agree on what should be changed. Speak to an experienced family law attorney about your modification as soon as you can. Your children deserve a plan that reflects the needs of your family today and their best interests.