5 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Parenting Plan

By Bob Matteucci

Changing You Parenting Plan in New Mexico

The parenting plan created at the time a divorce is finalized reflects the best interests of the child — and the best intentions of the parents — at that moment in time. But in this world, there is nothing so certain as change. And sometimes changing circumstances necessitate a change to your parenting plan

Attorney Bob Matteucci has worked with enough families in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, and other parts of New Mexico to identify five common signs it is time to change your parenting plan. 

1. One or both parents are having trouble making the current schedule work. 

Custody and visitation schedules can become difficult to follow as life changes. Family obligations, career changes, or other circumstances may make it difficult for you to follow the current schedule. For example, if you get a new job that requires you to work long hours or different hours, you may not have as much time to spend with your child. And as your children get older they spend more time on homework and extracurricular activities, so shuttling them between households can become disruptive. In these cases, you and your former partner may need to modify the custody and visitation schedule to make it work for everyone involved.

2. Relocation. 

If you or your child’s other parent has moved, or are planning to move, there’s a chance your custody and visitation agreement will have to be changed. The further the move, the more likely a modification will be necessary. Ideally, changes to the parenting plan will be agreed upon before any move is made so the child does not miss out on time with both parents, but sometimes that is not possible

3. Drug or alcohol abuse. 

If a child is put at risk due to a parent’s use of drugs or alcohol, immediate action should be taken to protect them. Protecting a child from exposure to drugs or alcohol could be a temporary thing, or it could be an issue that needs to be addressed permanently. 

4. Domestic violence or abuse.  

The New Mexico family court system takes allegations of domestic violence and domestic abuse very seriously. It will act quickly to protect your child from:

  • physical harm;
  • severe emotional distress;
  • bodily injury or assault;
  • a threat causing imminent fear of bodily injury by any household member;
  • criminal trespass;
  • criminal damage to property;
  • repeatedly driving by a residence or workplace;
  • telephone harassment;
  • harassment; or
  • the threat of any of these forms of abuse. 

A family court judge may limit an abuser’s interaction with your children by requiring all visitation be either supervised or restricted or cutting off all visitation rights. 

In supervised or restricted visitation, a parent’s contact with their child is limited to a specific place with someone whose role is to monitor the visit and watch out for the well-being of the child. 

Visitation rights are only terminated in extreme circumstances. In these cases, an Order of Protection may be needed. An Order of Protection, also known as a restraining order, protects you and your child by forbidding your abuser from contacting you or your children or being in close proximity to you, your children, your job or residence, and your children’s school or other activities. If your abuser violates an Order of Protection, then he or she may be arrested.

5. A child’s changing preferences. 

As your child grows older, he or she may prefer to live with one parent over the other, or change which parent they spend the majority of time with. Once a child reaches age 14, the court may ask your child how much time he or she would prefer to spend with you and your former partner. However, as with all custody decisions, the judge has to look at what’s in the child’s best interests.

Two Ways to Modify Your Parenting Plan

As you, your former partner, and your children move forward with your lives, you will have different wants and needs than you had at the time your parenting plan was originally created. Modifying your plan is the best way to ensure your child continues to have a positive relationship with you and your former partner. 

There are two different ways child custody modifications can occur. The first is for you and your former partner to consent to a modification. With or without the assistance of an attorney, you can file a mutually agreed upon modification order and submit it for the judge’s consideration. If the judge approves, the order will be signed and will thereafter replace the previous one.

If you and your former partner cannot agree to a proposed change, then the one who wants the modification can file a motion. The court will then set a hearing and the judge will decide whether to modify the prior order or leave it be. 

Serving Families with Dignity & Compassion 

Attorney Bob Matteucci of the Matteucci Family Law Firm has helped families across the state of New Mexico update their parenting plans to reflect their current lifestyle. Whether you and your former partner agree that a change is needed, or it is time to head to the negotiating table, Bob can help you find a path forward. Contact the Matteucci Family Law Firm today to schedule a meeting. 

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.