Can you change a parenting plan in TN after a divorce is finalized?

In certain situations, you can change a parenting plan.

A divorce is an emotional rollercoaster. A divorce requires both parties to make serious, life-changing decisions while going through the emotional highs and lows of the legal process. One of the decisions that can have a huge impact on both parties lives and the lives of their children is the parenting plan.

What is a parenting plan? Tennessee law refers to the child custody agreement as a parenting plan. Lawmakers in the state passed the Tennessee Parenting Plan law in 2001. The law is structured to better ensure the needs of the children are met after the divorce is finalized.

In some cases, the plan developed during divorce works well. In others, it may not. Whether due to a change in situation or a flaw in the original plan, the parenting plan may need changes.

Can a parent change a parenting plan? Yes, in certain situations you can change a parenting plan. Tennessee law refers to this process as a modification.

The court generally separates modification requests into two categories: emergency based or non-emergency. In the event of an emergency, like a child or parent's medical emergency, the parent that wishes to modify the original agreement can file a petition with the court to request a change.

If there is not an emergency, the parent wishing to change the original parenting plan can modify the plan through mediation, arbitration or counseling. The original parenting plan should include language to guide the accepted procedure for modification. If not, a parent can generally file a petition with the court along with a revised parenting plan to request a modification.

How will the court decide to approve or reject the proposed modification? Generally, the court rules in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child is a legal standard that takes a variety of factors into consideration. The goal of this legal standard is to develop an agreement that is most likely to ensure the child will flourish. The courts use this standard both for the original parenting plan determination and for the modification.

Factors taken into consideration can include the mental and physical health of the child and parents, the child's wishes dependent upon the child's age, adjustment to school and community and the interaction of the child with other members of the household.

Parents that wish to modify the parenting plan can take proactive steps to help better ensure success. An attorney experienced in child custody modification matters can review your situation and provide counsel.