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Child Support and Parenting Plan/Child Custody Modification

Providing Attorney Representation in Seattle, WA since 1991

Child Support Modifications

A child support modification action is a new legal proceeding that requires a summons and petition to be personally served on the other party to begin the action.  Child support may be modified 24 months after the order was entered without a showing of substantially changed circumstances.  The court will not entertain a modification action within 24 months of entry of the order unless there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the order was entered.  Voluntary unemployment or underemployment will not constitute a substantial change of circumstances, however involuntary lay off or other involuntary loss or change in employment would qualify as a substantial change of circumstances.  In some cases the court will modify a child support order 12 months after entry of the order without a showing of a substantial change of circumstances. One example of an exception to the substantial change of circumstances requirement is that if the order “in practice” works a severe economic hardship on either party or the child, then the court will permit a modification action without a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.

The payment provisions of a child support order may be adjusted without a showing of a substantial change in circumstances after 24 months have elapsed since the order was entered or since the last adjustment to the order on the basis of a change in either parties” income or a change in the economic table or standards.  An adjustment is not a new action and is initiated by filing a motion to adjust the order of support.

Any proceeding to adjust or modify child support will require the parties to provide copies of six months of their bank statements, six months of their pay stubs or profit and loss statements, and copies of the last three years of their federal income tax returns to the court to verify their current income.

If the court grants a modification or adjustment to the order of support, the court’s order is only effective prospectively, from the date the petition for modification or motion for adjustment was filed. 

Parenting Plan Modifications

It is very difficult to change a final parenting plan once it has been entered by the court unless the parties agree to modify the order or the modification is minor and fits within enumerated exceptions to the general rule.  The general rule states that the court shall not modify a prior custody decree or a parenting plan without a showing that the circumstances of the child have substantially changed since the prior order was entered and that the change in circumstances was unknown to the court at the time the prior order was entered.  The moving party must also demonstrate that the requested change to the parenting plan will be in the best interests of the child and is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.

A parenting plan modification action is a new legal action that requires a summons and petition to be personally served on the other party to begin the action.  The moving party must meet an “adequate cause” threshold in order for their case to proceed.  That means that the moving party must be able to demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to support their allegations and that their allegations meet the statutory requirements for a modification action to proceed.  If the moving party has not met the adequate cause threshold within 120 days of filing the petition, their case will be dismissed by the court.

Some examples of substantially changed circumstances listed in the statute are:
  • The parents agree to the modification;
  • The child has been integrated into the family of the petitioner with the consent of the other parent in substantial deviation from the parenting plan;
  • The child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child;
  • The court has found the nonmoving parent in contempt of court at least twice within three years because the parent failed to comply with the residential time provision in the court-ordered parenting plan, or the parent has been convicted of custodial interference in the first or second degree.

If you believe you may meet the requirements to seek a modification of your parenting plan, it is important to consult with an attorney who can advise you on how to proceed with your case to improve your chances of success.

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