How to Build Flexibility Into Your Parenting Plan With This Simple Clause

Parenting Plan

The Issue:  Parenting Plans Are Hard to Modify 

Divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. As a parent, you want to ensure that your child’s well-being and happiness are not compromised by the separation. But how can you do that when you and your ex-spouse have different views on what is best for your child?

One of the most important aspects of a divorce is the parenting plan, which outlines how you and your ex-spouse will share time and responsibilities for your child. A parenting plan can be agreed upon by both parties, or ordered by the court if there is a dispute. A parenting plan can also be modified later on, if there is a change in circumstances or if the parties agree to do so.

However, modifying a parenting plan is not always easy. Depending on the terms of your original parenting plan, you may have to prove that there is a substantial and material change in circumstances that affects your child’s best interests. This is a high standard that requires you to show that there has been a major change since the entry of the prior parenting plan, and that the old parenting plan is no longer suitable for your child, and that the proposed modification would be better for your child.  (Another words, Big Change + Better, and not just merely Better).   

But what if your original parenting plan already anticipated a future modification? What if your parenting plan had a clause that allowed you to revisit the timesharing schedule after a certain date, without having to file a petition or prove a change in circumstances? Would that make it easier for you to modify your parenting plan?

According to a recent case from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the answer is yes. In this post, we will explain how this case can help you protect your child’s best interests in a divorce.

The Perseo v. Donofrio Case

In Perseo v. Donofrio, a case from February of 2024, the Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s decision that denied the father’s request to modify the parenting plan based on the change in circumstances standard. The Court of Appeals held that the father did not have to meet that standard, because the parties’ parenting plan had a clause that stated:

March 1, 2019: The parties will revisit the timesharing schedule without prejudice. No Supplemental Petition for Modification needs to be filed by either party. If the parties are unable to agree on a schedule at that time after attending formal mediation, the matter shall be submitted to the Court.

The Court of Appeals found that this clause gave the father the right to seek modification without proving a change in circumstances, as long as he did so after March 1, 2019. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court erred in applying the wrong standard to the father’s petition, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The Implications for Your Parenting Plan

This case illustrates the importance of carefully drafting and reviewing your parenting plan. If you want to have the flexibility to modify your parenting plan in the future, without having to meet the high burden of proof, you may want to include a clause that allows you to do so. However, you should also be aware of the potential drawbacks of such a clause, such as the uncertainty and instability it may create for your child. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help you craft a parenting plan that meets your needs and protects your child’s best interests.

If you have any questions about parenting plan modifications or other family law issues, please contact us today. We are here to help you navigate the complex and emotional process of divorce with compassion and professionalism.

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