Child Custody Modifications

In Washington State, it can be very difficult to modify a parenting plan, as parties must prove to the court at the onset of a modification case that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrant the changes requested. Once adequate cause is granted, RCW 26.09.260 provides several grounds by which a trial court might order such a modification.

RCW 26.09.260(1) authorizes a trial court to order major modifications to a parenting plan when a substantial change has occurred in the circumstances of either the child or the nonmoving party; changes in circumstances of the moving party are not a basis for a major modification. Under RCW 26.09.260(1), the modification must also be in, and necessary to serve, the child's best interests.

The court may order modifications to the residential schedule when it finds one of the circumstances in RCW 26.09.260(2) present. Under RCW 26.09.260(2)(c), the circumstances include when “[t]he child's present environment is detrimental to the child's physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm likely to be caused by the change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.”

RCW 26.09.140 authorizes in cases that were originally divorce actions a possible award of fees “after considering the financial resources of both parties” to one party that has maintained or defended a proceeding under RCW 26.09. In cases filed pursuant to RCW 26.26 where the parties were not married, attorney’s fees may only be granted if the court finds the other side was intransigent, causing you to incur unnecessary fees.


Attorneys for Child Custody Modifications in Seattle, WA

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represent clients in child custody modification actions in Seattle, WA and the surrounding areas of King and Snohomish County. A parent might seek a modification of a child custody agreement or order for a variety of reasons, including when one parent wants to move or relocate to a new location. Recent case law provides that when parties are subject to an equally shared residential schedule, there is no presumption under the relocation statute that the moving party will get to relocate. See In re Worthey, 198 Wn.App. 419, 393 P.3d 859 (2017).

It is important to hire a qualified attorney in these cases and to address any request that you pay the other side's attorney fees. Whether your case is in Seattle or Kent, we can help you in the family law courts in King County, WA. We also represent clients throughout the bordering counties of Snohomish County to the north and Pierce County to the south.

Call (206) 712-2756 today to schedule an office consultation.


Circumstances Supporting Modification under RCW 26.09.260(5)

Under RCW 26.09.260(5), a trial court may order minor modifications to the residential schedule based upon a substantial change in the moving party’s house hold or a change in the circumstances of child or non-moving party.

A minor modification is one that affects no more than 24 days in a calendar year. The reasons for a minor medication can be a change in residence or work schedule of the parent with whom the child does not reside the majority of the time. Another reason for the change could be that a parent does not receive reasonable time with the child; in this situation, the modification cannot increase the moving parent’s time to more than ninety overnights in a year.


Adjustments to Parenting Plans

Other subsections of the statute permit the trial court to make certain adjustments to the parenting plan. Under RCW 26.09.260(4), the trial court may reduce contact between the child and the “parent with whom the child does not reside a majority of the time.

To do so, it must find that the modification would serve the child's best interests based on the criteria in RCW 26.09.191. These criteria include:

  • a substantial refusal to perform parenting functions
  • neglect or substantial nonperformance of parenting functions
  • other factors or conduct as the court expressly finds adverse to the best interests of the child.

RCW 26.09.260(10) allows the trial court, upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances of either parent or the child, to modify nonresidential portions of the parenting plan without considering the RCW 26.09.260(2) circumstances so long as the adjustment would serve the child's best interests. Examples of these provisions would be phone contact, or notification requirements related to when vacations might occur.

This article was last updated on Friday, October 27, 2017.

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