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Parenting Plan and Child Support Modification in Washington State

 Parenting plan modification in Washington

What are the reasons to modify a parenting plan?
In general, parenting plans are set in stone until and if you have a significant life event that prevents you from adhering to the current custody agreement. The parenting plan modification in Washington RCW 26.09.260 states that the modification must be in the child’s “best interest.”

If you hope to modify your parenting plan, but you have not had a major financial shift, your former partner must be on the same page about the modification. Otherwise, you must present proof that your child’s living conditions are not up to par or may be damaging to their well-being.

Can you modify a parenting plan without going to court?

It may be possible to avoid court in some cases (e.g., for “minor” changes, including switching up your work days due to low staffing at your office–as required by your employer). However, an adequate cause hearing is generally mandatory so that the judge may assess your reasons for wanting to modify the custody agreement.

You can start the parenting plan modification process by filing a Petition to Change a Parenting Plan, Residential Schedule, or Custody Order. This form specifies two things:

  • The change must be due to new findings that emerged after the initial parenting plan was instituted (e.g., you learned your child was in an unsafe living environment after signing the current parenting plan).
  • If the court was unaware of the new findings when approving the parenting plan, they might need to reevaluate the parenting plan to ensure your kids are in a supportive, healthy home. The findings may affect their decision on who gets custody, including the frequency of when each parent has custody.

You can specify the degree of the change (“major” vs. “minor”) in the petition. If your child is living with a different parent than agreed to in the original parenting plan, this would be a “major” change, and a parenting plan modification may be in order.

Modification of Child Support Order

How can you win a child support modification case?
Life circumstances can change without much notice, and you may need to adjust your child support to reflect those changes. To get your desired outcome, you will need to show why your child support obligations should be modified.

The reasons can include any of the following:

  • You have been fired or laid off from your job, and you have had no luck in securing new employment.
  • You have received a large drop (or bump) in pay.
  • Your child is turning 18 and graduating from high school soon.
  • Your child is now above 18 with no plans to attend college at this time.
  • If you provide child support to a college-aged student, you have noticed that their grades are consistently low. You have also found that they changed majors to an area that does not coincide with the career they are pursuing.

The judge will review your reason for requesting a child support modification and determine whether it is reasonable before approving a new child support order. It is important to note that you can ask for the change in child support on the same form you filed for the parenting plan modification.

Be aware that if you take this avenue, and your parenting plan modification is disapproved, your child support modification request may not go through. In that case, you may need to file a Petition to Modify the Child Support Order or a motion to adjust the child support.

When can you terminate child support in Washington State?

If your child is of legal age and in a good financial standing with no intentions of going to college, you may file a motion to terminate your child support obligations. Further, if you surrender your parental rights, or your child passes away, you may no longer need to pay child support.

The best way to start the child support termination process is to consult a family law attorney. This professional can walk you through the essential forms and termination procedures so that you experience as few roadblocks as possible.

Remember that the court will not terminate your child support obligations for just any reason. You need to show that your child is old enough and able to take care of their basic needs on their own. They must be finished with high school and at least 18 before the termination can occur.

Another reason the court may approve your child support termination request is if your child gets married. There is no perceived need to provide financially for your child once they have taken on a spouse of their own.

Further, if another adult adopts your child, you may no longer need to pay. That is because you will no longer be the child’s “parent” legally. Therefore, the financial “burden” will shift to the new adoptive parent, who is likely married to your child’s primary custody parent.

What happens if you and your former partner get back together? The child support order will likely still exist. However, if you get (re)married to your former partner, you can request the child support order’s termination, as it may no longer be necessary.

Please Note: You will want to check your child support order’s end date before filing any motions or petitions. This will ensure you act in a timely manner and meet all the necessary criteria required for modifying or terminating your child support order.

Get a good family lawyer on your side.
Modifying parenting plans and child support orders can be overwhelming. Let our expert family law attorneys simplify the process. We know the exact forms you need, and we will take care of most of the steps for you, including filing the forms with the proper court. If you would like to work with a quality legal team at an economical price, give the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer a call today. You are a five-minute call away from a free initial consultation.