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How and When Should a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Modify Parenting Plans?

by | Oct 18, 2019 | Family Law, Firm News

Relocation is the most common basis for parenting plan modification in McLeod County. Most people move about twelve times during their lifetimes. And, since most of these moves occur before age 40, most of them also involve young children. Legal modification is almost always necessary in these cases. Even a very short distance move often throws off things like pickup and drop-off schedules.

Onset or removal of parental disability is probably second. This disability could be behavioral (e.g. substance abuse), physical, emotional, or almost anything else. Generally, if the disability impairs or impaired daily functions in any way, a motion to modify the parenting plan may be appropriate.

In any situation, it’s important for a Hutchinson, MN lawyer to legally modify the parenting plan. Side agreements, even if they are in writing, are not enforceable in family court. So, when one parent unilaterally changes the terms, the other parent has no legal options, even if that parent made life changes in reliance on the side agreement. Additionally, there are issues in all parenting plan modifications that only an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer can properly address.

Parenting Plans and Child Support

Before we go further, we should make one point clear. A motion to modify often addresses both visitation and financial support. Especially in income share states like Minnesota, there is usually some interplay between these two things.

However, the issues are separate. A parent can never link child support and child visitation. That linkage basically holds the child for ransom. If a parent feels s/he should get more money or pay less, there must be a motion to modify.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Best Interests

Minnesota law states that judges may modify parenting plans only if the modification is in the child’s best interests. Many motions fail because either the parents or their lawyers do not understand this concept.

There is a big difference between the best interests of the child and the best interests of the parent. If the motion focuses on the latter instead of the former, the motion will probably fail. For example, assume Wilma wants to take Pebbles and move out of Bedrock. That move may be in her best interests, because it is a fresh start. But the move may not be in Pebbles’ best interests. She must leave everything and everyone familiar, including her BFF Bam Bam and her dad Fred.

To assist judges in making this determination, and to help Hutchinson, MN lawyers draft settlement agreements that the judge will approve, the law lays out a number of factors in this area, such as:

  • Child’s environment,
  • Any special needs which require special services,
  • Parental preference,
  • Child’s preference,
  • Any physical abuse, and
  • How the move would affect the child’s relationships with other family members.

So, if Wilma wants to win her motion, she must focus on these factors, as opposed to her preferences. Perhaps the new neighborhood has a better preschool for Pebbles. Or, perhaps Fred went off the deep end and committed family violence.

Resolving Disputes

Both relocation and disability-based modifications usually settle out of court. Typically, the parents agree on broad principles but disagree on specific issues. A mediator often helps in these situations.

During a half-day or a full-day session, the mediator hears from both sides and then tries to facilitate a settlement. Generally, this settlement involves some give and take. For example, Fred might consent to the move if Wilma agrees to increase Fred’s parenting time. Almost any such exchange is possible. However, as stated, child support or other financial issues cannot play a part in the parenting time modification process.

Quite often, Hutchinson, MN lawyers and their clients participate in pre-filing mediation. Especially in relocation matters, the parties usually have some time to negotiate before the move. That way, a lawyer can present an agreed motion to the judge. Most judges sign such motions as a matter of course.

Post-filing mediation is available as well, but it is more complex. These situations usually involve social services investigations and other legal matters.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Most parents frequently file parenting plan modification requests. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area office locations.