Can I change the parenting time schedule I have with my kids?

As children get older, it may be necessary to change a parenting time schedule.  Judges recognize that as children get older they are active in sports and school activities.  They are getting more independent.  So, how does Minnesota law address what a parenting time schedule should be?

Sometimes parents are able to agree to change a parenting time schedule and what the parenting time schedule ought to be.  Minnesota law states parenting time may be modified under certain conditions if the parents are not agreeing to the parenting time schedule in place, how it should be changed and what a new schedule should be.

First, a judge cannot modify a parenting time schedule if there is already a court ordered schedule that was signed by the judge less than one year ago.  A parent can bring a parenting time schedule issue to a judge at any time if there is an emergency, such as a parent being arrested for driving under the influence with the children in the vehicle.  Judges cannot and will not continually change parenting time schedules because such uncertainty is not in the best interests of the child or children.

Second, there are certain circumstances where a judge may modify a parenting time schedule.  Those situations are where:

1.         The judge believes it is in the best interests of the children based on twelve “best interests” factors;

2.         Both parents have agreed to modify the parenting time schedule and they put the agreement in writing;

3.         The child has been integrated into the parent’s home with the consent of the other parent. An example of integration is that while there is a court Order and dad is to have only get every other weekend, mom has permitted the kids spend every other week with dad for the past three months;

4.         The current living situation is endangering the child’s physical or emotional health and development such that changing the parenting time schedule is best for the child; or

5.         A judge has denied a parent’s request to move out of state with a child but moved with the child despite the court Order.

The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about changing a parenting time schedule is consulting with an experienced family law attorney.  Changing custody is one of the most complicated and legally challenging issues that should not be done without an attorney to represent you.  There are court Rules, proceedings and documents that an experienced family law attorney knows that people representing themselves may not.

Jessica Sterle