Modifications of Parenting Plans

When appropriate, we help our clients in Seattle, Kent, or throughout King County, Washington, file a petition for modification of the parenting plan or residential schedule. In these cases, the parent must show that a "substantial change" in circumstances occurred.

Those changes in circumstances can be occasioned by a change in the work schedule of one party, relocation to another part of King County, or relocation out of the State of Washington.  Typically a modification occurs only if there is a substantial change in the circumstances of the non-moving party, such as events in their lives that might warrant restrictions of their residential time under RCW 26.09.191

For more information about Major Modifications of Parenting Plans, see our page on Child Custody Modifications.

Attorney for Modifications of the Parenting Plans in Seattle, WA

In these cases, our family law attorneys in Seattle help our clients either move for or defend against a request to modify a parenting plan or residential schedule. In many of these cases, one parent wants to add days to their visitation schedule, make changes in the transportation arrangements, and modify dispute resolution sections of the parenting plan.

Our attorneys are also experienced in modification actions for child support and modification actions for maintenance or alimony. In addition to representing clients in modification actions in King County, we also represent clients in these types of cases in Everett and Snohomish County.

Call (206) 712-2756 today.


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Parenting Plans Modification Information Center


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Procedures for a Full Hearing on the Petition to Modify the Residential Schedule

RCW 26.09.270 sets forth a requirement that before a parent is entitled to a full hearing on a petition to modify a residential schedule, the petitioner must first demonstrate that adequate cause exists.

Along with the motion to modify, the petitioner must submit affidavits with specific relevant factual allegations that, if proved, would permit a court to modify the parenting plan under RCW 26.09.260.

If the trial court finds that the affidavits establish a prima facie case, it sets a hearing date on an order to show cause why the requested modification should not be granted as outlined in RCW 26.09.270.


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Substantial Change in Circumstances for Modification

The term "substantial change in circumstances" is not defined in the statute. Relocation of either parent is a changed circumstance that may justify a minor modification, but only if the original parenting plan did not anticipate relocation.

The court relies on the plain language of RCW 26.09.260, which limits parenting plan modifications to situations where the court finds "a substantial change has occurred" on the "basis of facts that have arisen since the prior decree or plan or that were unknown to the court at the time."


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Minor Modification in the Residential Schedule under RCW 26.09.260(5)

The request for a minor modification of the parenting plan or residential schedule established in the prior custody decree brought pursuant to RCW 26.09.260(5) when certain factors are met. Those factors allow the court to make adjustments to the residential aspects of a parenting plan if a substantial change in circumstances of either parent or of the child occurred.

Modifications in the parenting plan or residential schedule can be classified as “major modifications” or “minor modifications” which each have a different standard of proof. Modification of a parenting plan is statutorily prescribed by RCW 26.09.260.

Compliance with the statute is mandatory. Under RCW 26.09.260(1), the court is directed that it shall not modify a custody decree or parenting plan unless it finds a substantial change in the circumstances of the child or the nonmoving party, and that modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.

Under RCW 26.09.260(2), the court must retain the residential schedule established in the parenting plan unless specific enumerated circumstances support modification. These subsections apply to major modifications of the residential schedule and establish a preference for stability in the child's living arrangements.

RCW 26.09.260(5) establishes more relaxed requirements for minor modifications of the residential schedule. Upon a showing of substantial change in the circumstances of either parent (as opposed to the nonmoving parent in a major modification) or of the child, the court may adjust the residential schedule of the child without a showing of the factors in subsection (2) if:

  • the proposed modification is “minor”;
  • it does not change the child's primary residence; and
  • it does not exceed 24 days per year; or
    • it is based on the noncustodial parent's change of residence or a parent's involuntary change in work schedule that makes the current residential schedule impractical to follow; or
    • it does not result in a schedule that exceeds 90 overnights per year, if:
      • the court additionally finds that the parenting plan does not provide reasonable time with the noncustodial parent; and
      • that it is in the best interests of the child to increase residential time beyond 24 days per year.

In other words, the superior court may order an adjustment to the parenting plan if the petitioning parent shows:

  • a substantial change in circumstances;
  • the proposed adjustment meets at least one of the three criteria set forth in subsections (a) (24 full days), (b) (change of residence or work schedule resulting in impracticality), or (c) (not more than 90 overnights, lack of reasonable time, and best interests of child).

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Finding a Lawyer to Modify a Parenting Plan in King County, WA

For a variety of reasons, one parent might want to change a visitation schedule or parenting plan after it is originally decided. That party will file a petition to modify the custody decree/parenting plan. If the parties agree to the change, a new order can be presented to the court.

When the parties disagree, the other side might argue that there was no change in circumstances as required by statute so the request should be denied.

If the court grants to request, the superior court can enter a new parenting plan.


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

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