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Changing Parenting Time


    A parenting time schedule is not set in stone. The judge can change it at the request of one or both parents. Some changes to a parenting time schedule may affect child support, too. Child support is calculated using many factors, including the number of overnights each parent spends with the child.

    If you think the changes you want to make to parenting time will also affect your child support order, read Getting or Changing a Child Support Order next.

    If you need help enforcing your parenting time order, read Enforcing Orders for Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support.

    What Kind of Parenting Time Schedule Do You Have?

    If you want to change your parenting time schedule, first look at what your court order says about it. Your court order might have a specific parenting time schedule with details about when each parent has the child or children. Or the order may simply say there will be reasonable or regular parenting time. With reasonable parenting time, the parents must work out the details of the schedule together. Both parents must agree on dates, times, and any other conditions with reasonable parenting time.

    You may want to change parenting time if you currently have reasonable parenting time and you can’t agree to a schedule, or if you want to change an existing specific schedule.

    Will the Other Parent Agree?

    Next, see if your child's other parent will agree to the change. If your current order is for reasonable parenting time and the other parent agrees to the change, you do not have to file anything with the court. However, if your order has a specific parenting time schedule, the judge must approve a change in the schedule even if the other parent agrees. An order with a specific schedule stays in effect until the judge signs a new order.

    If both parents agree to change a specific parenting time schedule, they can ask the judge to sign a proposed order without filing a motion. In that case, there is no court hearing unless the judge requests one. If you and your child’s other parent agree on changing parenting time, you can use the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Parenting Time to create the proposed order you need.

    When Can I File a Motion to Change Parenting Time?

    If the other parent does not agree to the change you want, you can file a Motion Regarding Parenting Time in your family case. There must be proper cause or a change in circumstances for the judge to reconsider parenting time. What qualifies as proper cause or a change in circumstances differs depending on the kind of change you ask for. If the amount of parenting time you want actually changes custody instead of parenting time, it will be harder to prove than if you ask for a smaller change. To learn more, read How a Judge Decides a Motion to Change Parenting Time.

    How Do I File a Motion?

    If you want to change an ex parte order regarding parenting time (a temporary order entered without a hearing), use the form called Objection to Ex Parte Order and Motion to Modify or Rescind. You must file this form within 14 days after you were served with the ex parte order.

    To change any other parenting time order, you can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Parenting Time to create the forms you need. If you file the motion, you are the moving party. The other parent is the respondent.

    The court will charge a fee to file your motion. If you get public assistance or cannot afford to pay the fee, you can ask the court to waive your fees. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Fee Waiver to do this.

    When you file your motion, you will get a hearing date from the court clerk. The clerk will tell you the hearing date and time. Put that information in the notice of hearing at the bottom of your motion. Then you must serve the motion and notice of hearing on the respondent. To learn more about filing, read the checklist that applies to you in the toolkit I Need to Change Parenting Time.

    What Happens Next?

    Court Process

    If you and your child’s other parent disagree about parenting time, you may meet with the Friend of the Court first or have a hearing in front of a judge or referee, depending on your county. At the meeting or hearing, you and the other party will each have a chance to say why you think parenting time should be changed or left the same. Bring any documents that support your claims.

    If you meet with a Friend of the Court worker, he or she will likely make a recommendation to the judge about whether to change parenting time.

    If you have a hearing in front of a judge, the judge may decide whether to change parenting time at or after the hearing. Or the judge may refer the motion to a referee, who will hold a less formal hearing and prepare a recommended order for the judge.

    Either a judge or referee may refer your motion to the Friend of the Court for an investigation and recommendation. If the Friend of the Court makes a recommendation in your case, or if a referee makes a recommended order, the judge will consider it. Either type of recommendation can become a final order in your case, but you will have a chance to object to it before that can happen.

    The Friend of the Court process varies widely by county. To learn more about Friend of the Court, read Friend of the Court Overview.

    How the Judge Decides

    To learn about what the judge will consider, read How a Judge Decides a Motion to Change Parenting Time.

    What Do I Say in My Court Papers and at My Hearing?

    The Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Parenting Time will help you prepare your forms and guide you through what to say. For example, you will explain what parenting time change you want the judge to order and why the change would be in your child’s best interests.

    At your court hearing or a meeting with the Friend of the Court, you will want to explain the same things that you say in your motion. You will also have the chance to present evidence that supports what you say.

    Changing parenting time can be complicated, especially if it would affect custody. If you want to contact a lawyer in your county, use Find a Lawyer. If you are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help.