Sample Montana Parenting Plan: Residential ChangesMarybeth Sampsel
As we’ve discussed before, one of the primary goals of a Montana parenting plan is to craft an agreement that will grow along with the child. The process is lengthy, intensive, and expensive – ideally you will only need to do it once. One of the ways we can ensure that you do not have to reinvent the wheel each time is to include provisions that anticipate future events.
Although not something that always happens, often one parent will move from one location to another. They may just move across town, or they may cross Montana and move from Kalispell to Billings. For that reason, my parenting plans typically include the following language:
Residential Changes Significantly Affecting the Child: If either parent’s change of residence will significantly affect the child’s contact with the other parent, the parties shall follow the following procedure:
- The moving parent will:
- Prepare a written notice of his or her intention to change residences;
- Prepare a proposed revised residential schedule;
- Serve the non-moving parent, personally or by certified mail not less than 30 days before the proposed change of residence, with the written notice of intention to change residences and with the proposed revised residential schedule; and
- File proof of service upon the non-moving parent with the court.
- If the non-moving parent fails to respond to the written notice of intention to change residences and the proposed revised residential schedule, then the non-moving parent will be deemed to have accepted the proposed revised residential schedule. If the non-moving parent objects to the proposed revised residential schedule, the non-moving parent shall:
- Prepare an alternative proposed revised residential schedule or state why the existing residential schedule should continue;
- Serve the moving parent, personally or by certified mail within 30 days of receipt of the notice and proposed revised schedule from the moving party, with the alternative proposed change of residence or statement why the existing residential schedule should continue; and
- File proof of service upon the moving parent with the court.
- If the parties cannot agree upon a revised residential schedule for the child, they shall promptly make arrangements to mediate their differences as provided below.
- If the parties cannot agree upon a revised residential schedule for the child after mediation, they may file appropriate motions with the court.
This portion of the parenting plan creates a series of steps that must be followed before one parent may make a residential change that effects the child. It requires that the moving parent notify the other parent in writing at least 30 days before the move. The moving parent must also provide a new residential schedule for the child. Although we have not seen one yet, the residential schedule determines where the child is to be and when. I will provide an example of a residential schedule in a later article.
The non-moving parent may then object to the move or the proposed changes in the residential schedule by writing back to the moving parent. It should be noted that this is done outside of court, saving the parties the expense of having to litigate every dispute immediately. If the non-moving parent does not respond in writing, then we assume that he or she accepts the changes. If there is a dispute, the parties may try to resolve it themselves, but need to begin participating in the mediation process quickly. Again, this is an effort to help the parties avoid going back to court. If mediation fails, then the parties will need to go back to court and incur that substantial expense.