Changing Parenting Arrangements

Changing a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan can be varied at any time by the parties by entering into another parenting plan. This can be completed without the assistance of a lawyer.

Changing a Parenting Order

An existing parenting order can be changed in 2 ways:

  • By a subsequent parenting plan or
  • By a subsequent court order.

If agreement is reached between the parties then the parties could enter into a new parenting plan (unless there is a court order preventing this) or a new court order by consent.

The change does not have to be in relation to all of the existing parenting order. The change could be in relation to just one part of the existing parenting order.

The above situations deal with where there is agreement between the parties.

Where there is no agreement to change the existing parenting order then the person requesting the change must show that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the parenting order was made.

Significant Change in Circumstances

When final parenting orders are made those orders are on a final basis. The courts are reluctant to change existing orders unless there are some changed circumstance which would justify such a serious step.

The applicant must show that:

  • There has been a significant change of circumstances and
  • The change in the existing parenting order is in the best interest of the child.

Once a significant change in circumstances is established then the standard procedure will apply in relation to determining what parenting orders to make.

That is, the same pre-action procedure is required to be complied with. In determining what new orders (if any) will be made, a court will adopt the same framework in determining the existing parenting order.

Example of Significant Change in Circumstances

The following has been held to be a significant change in circumstances:

  • Whether there is family violence or risk of abuse to the child
  • Where there is a change in the child’s need such as due to illness
  • Where a parent seeks to relocate with the children.