Matters of child custody, legal decision making, and parenting time can be explosive even in the best of circumstances. They can become all that much more contentious when one party wishes to modify an existing agreement after the fact. In most cases, barring evidence of abuse or neglect, failure for the other parent to comply with the terms of an existing order, or a parent’s pending military deployment, a modification cannot be made to a parenting time and legal decision-making agreement within one year of its adoption.
In general, before filing to change a parenting time and legal decision-making agreement, both parents should ideally consider what will be in the best interests of the child. Children need stability in order to develop properly, and changes to these agreements can cause serious disruptions to this.
When deciding whether to change the parenting agreement, it’s important to have realistic goals that match with what’s in the best interests of the child. You should demonstrate that your child’s current environment and parenting set up is not conducive to and may endanger their emotional, psychological, moral, or physical health. You should compile and bring all supporting documentation before the judge.
The following documents are recommended to help convince the court of any danger your child might be in:
• medical records
• military orders
• school records
• police records if abuse or neglect is being alleged
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that while military deployment can be legal grounds for modifying a parenting agreement, in the state of Arizona it is not grounds on its own for the parenting agreement to be modified without the consent of the service member, and the chance of deployment in the future cannot be held against a service member when drafting a parenting agreement. The court may enter a temporary order that delegates parenting time while the service member is deployed at a substantial distance from their primary residence, but this does not permanently alter the parenting agreement.
In order to request that the court modify parenting time or legal decision making outside of a military context, the parent requesting the change should submit an affidavit to the court outlining the reasons for the requested change, with supporting evidence. The person filing the affidavit or verified petition should also file notice to the opposing parent, so that they can submit a counter affidavit with supporting evidence should they wish to do so.
The court will review the evidence and then either approve or deny the petition based on the totality of circumstances and the best interests of the child involved. A hearing will then be set for the purposes of explaining the approval or denial of the petition. Additionally, should a court find that the filing is simply vexatious or constitutes harassment, they may order one party to pay for the legal costs of the other.
At Simon Law Group, we deal with family law cases of all kinds. If you are looking to modify your parenting time and legal decision-making agreement, do not delay. Proper representation can be the difference between approval and denial. Contact us today for a free consultation!