Your parenting plan is the document that determines when you get to see your children and how much influence you have on their lives. You may have negotiated it and reached an agreement with the other parent, or a judge may have decided how to divide decision-making authority and parenting time for your family.
In either case, you and the other parent of your children need to abide by the terms set in the plan. When your situation changes and you have to adjust your schedule or change who makes certain decisions on behalf of the children, you may talk the situation out with your co-parent and reach an agreement.
You will likely need to go to court and adjust your parenting plan if the changes are significant and will alter your ongoing responsibilities. Why would making an official change to your parenting plan be a necessary step if you agree with your co-parent on the specifics?
1. You can’t enforce your verbal agreement
For you to actually uphold the new terms that you set with your co-parent, you would need to have a formal record of those new arrangements. Whether you get more time with the children or have a say in making certain choices about their health or education, you don’t want to depend on your co-parent’s goodwill to make use of those rights.
The only way for you to enforce your right to increased parenting time or having more of a say in your children’s day-to-day lives will be to make an official change to the parenting plan on record.
2. You could face malicious enforcement efforts
When you agree to change your parenting schedule, the possibility exists for your co-parent to engage in malicious enforcement attempts. They could call the police and report you for not bringing the children back on schedule, for example.
Even though you may have an informal arrangement, the official parenting plan will be what determines if you might face consequences. Updating your parenting plans through an uncontested modification when you agree on certain changes will protect you from your co-parent misrepresenting the situation to others.
3. Your support obligations could change
Whether you receive child support from your co-parent or you pay support, how much you have to pay or how much you receive is a reflection of how you divide parenting time. If you make a significant change to your parenting schedule, you could potentially ask the courts to review that change and adjust your support obligations accordingly.
Given that you agree on the new terms, an uncontested modification request could be an option. Updating and enforcing your custody order will protect your rights as a parent.