Returning to court to settle every dispute between separated parents can be difficult and expensive. If parents have a parenting plan entered through a court order, they should settle disputes in a manner that is consistent with the parenting plan. However, in some situations, the parenting plan may either be silent on the issue, or may need to be modified in order to accurately deal with the issue. In these situations, can parents make informal changes to their parenting plan?
Parents can make minor changes to things like the time sharing schedule between themselves without having to go back to court for an official change. This is what often happens if the changes needed are minor changes to accommodate short term situations.
Major changes, like increasing one parent’s parenting time or reducing the amount of child support a parent is required to pay, should be handled in court.
Making informal modifications to a parenting plan that was approved by a judge may result in the modifications not being legally enforceable. Additionally, making major changes informally could affect how a court later decides the changed issue.
For example, if parent A informally agrees to give up time with the child to increase parent B’s time, this can be considered by the court in a future modification to officially reduce parent A’s parenting time.
Practically speaking, it is also better to have the protection of a court approved parenting plan if seeking to enforce a provision under the parenting plan. A court can also decide whether any of the proposed changes to the plan are in the best interest of the child.
If both parents agree that changes are needed, they can bypass the waiting period that generally applies to the modification of a parenting plan and go back to court to get the plan modified.
If both parents agree to the changes, going back to court to get the new plan approved should not be as expensive as it would be without an agreement, especially if the changes are minor in nature.
Parents who make informal agreements to reduce child support payments should be especially careful because the law will not recognize that informal change. This means that under the law, the amount that the court ordered is what is owed, and any unpaid amount continues to grow and be subject to interest payments.
If a parent’s income is reduced, or there are substantial changes that require a reduction in child support, then the parent who is ordered to pay child support should only reduce payments when allowed by to the court.
Let Us Assist You
If you need to file for a modification of your parenting plan or child support order, you should consult with an experienced attorney before you decide on any changes. A skilled lawyer can advise you on the effect of the changes long term, and how to best seek the modification.
Contact an experienced DuPage County family law lawyer at Momkus McCluskey LLC for immediate help with your case.