A parenting plan is determined during a divorce and always aims to represent the best interests of the children in the dissolving relationship. When developing a parenting plan, several factors are considered, such as the wishes of the children and the ability of the parents to care for them.
As children age, their views may change, and they may determine that they would like to change the parenting plan to have more or less visitation with their second parent. In some cases, younger siblings may wish to continue with the status quo while an older child will express a preference for changing the plan that relates to their care.
It is always advisable for the primary parent to take some time to talk to the child in question to understand what is driving their decision. Perhaps the other parent lives closer to friends that they wish to spend more time with, or they will be better placed to help them with school work or to support them in their career ambitions. Maybe they are simply rebelling against authority and believe that they will have an easier time if they stay with their other parent on a full-time basis.
Once the primary parent understands what is driving their child’s decision, they can have an open and honest discussion with their ex to determine the extent to which they can accommodate the wishes of their child. If they are unwilling or unable to accept greater levels of parental responsibility, they should communicate this kindly but firmly to the child in question.
In some instances, a child may decide that they no longer wish to spend any time with their second parent or would prefer to drastically reduce the amount of time they spend with them. Again, their primary parent should question them carefully and sensitively to understand the factors that are driving their decision.
In this case, they should also consider whether there may be safeguarding issues at play that could affect the parenting plan that is in place for all of their children and not only the one who has raised a concern.
Again, the primary parent should have an informal discussion with their ex to understand their point of view and try to determine whether the points that have been raised by their child are valid. The only exception to this is if the child has raised a legitimate safeguarding concern, in which case the primary parent should file a Motion To Modify Parenting Time  to implement an immediate change to the parenting plan, lawfully preventing their ex from having access while a long-term mutually satisfactory solution is sought.
What To Do If An Agreeable Outcome Cannot Be Reached Informally
If the parents are unable to reach an agreeable position on modifying their parenting plan, they should speak to their family law attorneys for advice. The attorneys will likely recommend mediation to help all parties put forward their case for changing the parenting plan or for maintaining the status quo. In this manner, each party will be given the opportunity to clearly explain their position.
If the decision about whether to modify the parenting plan is escalated to family court, a judge will take into account the age, maturity and reasons outlined by the child who wishes to enact a change to the parenting plan, along with the best interest of the child.
The court will also consider the impact that changing the parenting plan may have on sibling relationships and whether the reasons given by the child wishing to implement changes will impact any other children from the relationship.
If the court determines that the child’s wishes are valid, can be accommodated by the parents and are in their best interests, it may modify the parenting plan to reflect the desire of the child for more or less time with a specific parent. Depending on whether safeguarding concerns are upheld, the parenting plan may relate to visitation time with all children from the relationship rather than just the one who sought the changes.
A court may decide that risk factors mean that a particular parent should only be allowed supervised or therapeutic visitation, or they may choose to implement a different arrangement to guarantee that a safe and supportive environment will be provided for the children when they are in their care .
At Lewis & Matthews, P.C., we will handle your child custody case with kindness and compassion. Our experienced legal team can reduce the stress experienced by all parties and help you achieve a fair resolution. Contact us today to find out how we can help your family.