August 25, 2021
Even the most thorough and well-thought-out divorce decrees, including those that address parenting time and decision-making, sometimes need updating. Our lives and our kids’ lives change—sometimes dramatically. When this happens, co-parents often need to petition the Superior Court of Arizona to modify the parenting plan.
The court will not typically grant a modification simply because one spouse wants an order to be modified. Absent any domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, substance abuse, or non-compliance with the order, co-parents in Arizona are only allowed to petition for a modification after one year has passed and a substantial change in circumstances has occurred.
What is a Substantial Change in Circumstances?
In the context of Arizona family law court orders, a substantial change in circumstances is something that makes following the current parenting time or decision-making order impractical or impossible. Generally, this substantial change in circumstances must be continual and not just a temporary change. Additionally, the change must have occurred since the last court order was entered.
A few things that Arizona courts have qualified as substantial changes in circumstances include:
- A job change or relocation to another state;
- The onset of a serious illness or medical condition (for either the child or co-parent);
- A drastic change in the child’s educational needs; and
- Remarriage of either spouse.
How Does the Process Work?
Many times, the co-parents agree that a modification of the current parenting plan is needed. In that case, the two parties simply need to agree on a new plan and submit it to the judge for approval. Otherwise, the petitioning parent must go to the appropriate court (usually the Superior Court through which the original order was entered) and submit papers to the clerk’s office.
After you’ve provided the necessary forms, the other co-parent must be served with the petition and given a chance to respond. If he or she contests the modification, then a hearing will be set and required disclosures will commence. If you are the petitioning parent, you must give specific facts that support the need for a modification. If your case gets all the way to a court hearing, the court will address two basic considerations:
- Whether or not the petitioner (you) proved that a substantial and continuing change in circumstances occurred; and
- Whether or not the proposed changes are in the best interests of the child.
The best interests of the child standard is a lens through which family law judges determine living arrangements (parenting time) and decision-making for children of separated or divorced parents. The standard is comprised of 11 standards that address nearly every aspect of the child’s life and is far too complicated to cover in this particular blog post.
A Good Attorney Has No Substitute
Our firm has helped numerous co-parents and families secure modifications to Arizona court orders. We know the importance of effective and empathetic representation when dealing with family law matters, and we pledge to do things the right way for you and your kids. Call our Glendale family law attorneys at (623) 385-3190 to see how we can help meet your legal needs and realize a brighter future for your family.