Amending or Modifying a Montana Parenting Plan

Though the goal of a Final Parenting Plan is to provide for the care and support of a minor child for the foreseeable future, there often comes a time when it is necessary to revisit your parenting plan.  As time passes, circumstances sometimes change drastically in a way that your existing parenting plan is no longer in your child’s best interest.
Recognizing this issue, Montana law allows a parenting plan to be amended or modified when a substantial change in circumstances occurs such that a modified parenting plan is necessary to serve the child’s best interest.   In order to determine if a change in circumstances has occurred, the court will look at the facts of the case and determine if facts have arisen since the prior plan was put in place or facts exist that were unknown at the time the plan was put in place.
Many stipulated parenting plans (plans that were put in place upon agreement of the parties) include a provision that requires the dispute resolution process before either party can motion the court for a new parenting plan.  This means that parties must first attempt to mediate the issues and try to come up with an amended parenting plan without involving the court.
Additionally, many stipulated parenting plans include a built-in review date.  For example, your plan might say that the parenting plan can be reviewed “two years from the date of the agreement.”  If that is the case, a showing of substantial change of circumstances may not be necessary, provided that amount of time has passed.
In the event your parenting plan does not have a built-in review date and you have exhausted the dispute resolution provision of your plan, you may look to the court to amend or modify your parenting plan.  At that time, the party seeking to amend the plan must file the appropriate pleadings with the court.   If the court finds from your pleadings that amendment may be necessary, the court will likely schedule a hearing regarding your new parenting plan.
It is important to understand that parenting plan modifications are not simply an opportunity for a parent who did not get the the plan they wanted in the first place to re-fight their case.   Without some new and unforeseen facts, an amendment of your plan may not be appropriate.