Modifying an Existing Montana Parenting PlanMarybeth Sampsel
Though Final Parenting Plans are designed to carry the parties to a dissolution or parenting action through the foreseeable future, there often comes a time when parents need to make changes to their Final Parenting Plan. A parent may move, remarry, or obtain a new job. Or as a child ages, their needs may change that make an old parenting plan impractical. Occasionally, an emergency may arise with a child or parent that requires an immediate change to the parenting plan.
In order to modify a parenting plan, a parent must follow Montana’s statute governing the Amendment of Parenting Plans – M.C.A. 40-4-219. Under Montana law, a parenting plan can be modified anytime both parents agree to the amendment. If one parent does not agree, the other must prove that there has been a change in circumstances that makes an amendment necessary to serve the best interest of the child. The change in circumstances must be based on facts that were unknown to the court when the prior plan was ordered or new facts that have arisen since the prior plan was put into place.
Many parenting plans include a “built in” review date. In the event a parenting plan has a built in review date, a party may not need to show that a change in circumstance has occurred, provided the review date has passed.
Often parenting plans include a Dispute Resolution section which requires the parents attempt mediation before either of them can ask the court for an amendment of their parenting plan. If that is the case, you may obtain names of mediators in your area from the Montana Mediation Association on their website.
If a modification of your parenting plan is appropriate, the court will consider the factors in Montana’s Best Interest of the Child statute. Read the full text of the Best Interest of the Child statute. The court may also consider the following:
– whether the parents agree to the amendment;
– whether the child has been integrated into the family of the petition with consent of the parents;
– whether the child is 14 years of age or older and desires the amendment;
– whether one parent has refused contact between the child and other parent or denied/frustrated contact between the child and the other parent; and
– whether a parent has or intends to change residences in a manner that will significantly affect the child’s contact with the other parent.
If you wish to modify your parenting plan, the first is to review your existing parenting plan for a review date and/or Dispute Resolution language. If you do not have a copy of your parenting plan, you may obtain one for the clerk of court in the county your parenting plan was filed in. Once you have a copy of your parenting plan, I encourage you to speak with an attorney about the modification process.