Modification of a New Hampshire Parenting Plan is Governed by a Statute – RSA 461-A:11
Experienced New Hampshire child custody lawyers and divorce attorneys often file a Petition to Change Court Order after a Final Decree has been issued in a New Hampshire divorce or parenting case. Modification of a New Hampshire parenting plan is governed by a statute, NH Revised Statutes Annotated 461-A:11. This statute is entitled “Modification of Parental Rights and Responsibilities.”
“But often a parent seeking a modification, or opposing a modification, does not realize s/he may have already modified the parenting plan by his or her actions or verbal agreement.”
The Parents’ Actions or Verbal Agreement May Also Constitute a Modification to a New Hampshire Parenting Plan
This statute lists many ways a New Hampshire parenting plan can be modified. But often a parent seeking a modification, or opposing a modification, does not realize s/he may have already modified the parenting plan by his or her actions or verbal agreement. While this may come as a surprise (good or bad), it often is a significant issue in a NH Parenting Plan modification case. Let me explain.
Parenting plans are often agreed-upon between the parents, filed, and approved by the Court. The parenting plan represents what the parties think is best for the child/ren at the time it is filed and approved. But both child/ren and parents grow, change and evolve after the parenting plan is filed and approved. The parenting plan no longer reflects what works for the parents and/or the child/ren.
The result is that parents change the parenting plan by their verbal agreement and/or their actions without writing the change down. For example, it’s common for parents to change pick-up and drop-off times and locations to suit their needs. It is also common for one parent to exercise more, or less, parenting time than what was agreed-upon in the parenting plan. Finally, one parent may not enforce parenting plan provisions that limit the other parent’s time with the child/ren.
Almost invariably, however, the parents have a falling out (as often as not, the falling out has little to do with the parenting plan, and much to do with the relationship dynamics between the parents) and one parent demands a return to the provisions in the parenting plan; the other parent refuses to do so. Both parties seek legal help. Which parent is right?
The Court Determines if a NH Parenting Plan has been Modified by the Parents’ Actions or Verbal Agreement
The answer is determined by the Court. The Court usually holds several hearings and often appoints a Guardian ad litem to investigate the parties’ allegations. After conducting a final modification hearing, the Court reviews the evidence presented by both parents at the hearing and considers whether it shows that both parties, through their actions or verbal agreement, agreed-to the modification. The Court also looks to see if the modification occurred frequently enough, and over enough time, to truly constitute a permanent modification to the parenting plan. The Court’s final modification order often bears little resemblance to what either party wanted when the parenting plan modification action began.
Experienced New Hampshire Child Custody Lawyers Can Have a Major Impact When an Implied Modification is Alleged
Does this sound complicated? It often is, which is why retaining an experienced New Hampshire family law practitioner is so important. An experienced NH attorney will evaluate the facts and realistically assess whether an implied modification of a New Hampshire parenting plan has occurred. A New Hampshire attorney will further help you gather evidence to support or oppose an implied modification, work with the Guardian ad litem, and represent you at hearings as the case progresses.
Read our testimonials and contact the aggressive New Hampshire child custody lawyers at the T.W. Stevens Law Firm, with offices in Portsmouth and Dover. You’ll learn why many of our clients consider us to be the best family law attorneys in New Hampshire.