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When Can Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys Modify Parenting Plans?

by | Feb 10, 2020 | Family Law, Firm News

Remarriage, onset or removal of disability, and relocation are probably the three most common parenting plan modification triggers in Wright County. The parenting plan modification could involve different time divisions, pickup or dropoff locations, supervision of visitation, or changes to educational, medical, and other provisions concerning the children.

Overall, the requested modification must be in the best interests of the children. Minnesota law sets out a number of factors that judges use to determine a child’s best interests. Buffalo, MN family law attorneys must be mindful of these factors both in court and during settlement negotiations. Wright County judges normally do not approve settlement agreements which do not uphold the child’s best interests.

Threshold for Custody Modification

Threshold issues are things that Buffalo, MN family law attorneys must establish in their pleadings and in a preliminary hearing as well. In order for a judge to consider a motion to modify a parenting plan, all of the following circumstances must be present:

  • Significant Change of Circumstances: This category is rather vague and rather easy for a Buffalo, MN family law attorney to establish. Generally, anything that concerns the child on a daily or ongoing basis is a significant change of circumstances. A parent’s remarriage is a significant chance of circumstances if the new spouse affects the child’s well-being in a substantial way.
  • Recent Change: In a modification procedure, anything which happened prior to the existing order’s entry is irrelevant. That includes supposed parental misdeeds, such as using drugs in the child’s presence. On a related note, the change must have been unanticipated. Children get older, so a child’s age is never a proper basis for modification.
  • Best Interests: There is a difference between the best interests of the child and the child’s preference. There is also a difference between the best interests of the parent and the best interests of the children.

The moving party must establish each threshold issue by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Supporting Circumstances

In some states, in addition to the aforementioned threshold issues, it is enough to show that the existing parenting time division is unworkable or inappropriate. But Minnesota judges require more. Motons to modify parenting time divisions must rest on one of the following:

  • Interference with Current Parenting Time Schedule: Interference is usually an intentional act. Parents do not accidentally interfere with parenting time provisions. However, a Wright County judge might presume that conduct is intentional if there is repeated misconduct.
  • Endangerment of Physical Health or Emotional Well-Being: This is perhaps the most common basis for modification. Almost anything could impair the child’s emotional development in some way. Parents who cite this basis must also show that the pros outweigh the cons.
  • Both Parties Agree: Many judges approve agreed modifications without holding hearings. For this reason, Buffalo, MN family law attorneys often encourage clients to participate in pre-filing mediation. That way, they can present an agreed order to the judge.
  • Illegal Interstate Move: If a court orders a parent to remain within the state with the child and the parent relocates out of state anyway, that disobedience is an independent basis for parenting time modification. It’s probably also a basis for redesignating the residential and nonresidential parents.

Once again, the moving party must establish these facts by a preponderance of the proof. Imagine two stacks of paper sitting side by side. If someone moves one sheet of paper from the left to the right, the stack on the right is bigger than the one on the left. That’s a picture of a preponderance of the evidence.

Talk to an Experienced Lawyer

Parenting time modifications must be in the child’s best interests. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.