How to Modify a Parenting Plan

               Many parents wonder how a custody or parenting schedule may be modified after a final parenting plan has already been issued by a New Hampshire Court.  For an initial parenting plan, Courts look strictly at the “best interests of the child” standard in determining a parenting schedule.  Modifying a parenting plan is a bit more complicated. Although the best interest of the child are still a factor for modifying a New Hampshire parenting plan, New Hampshire law requires more than just an allegation that the child would be better off with a new schedule.

               RSA 461-A:11 governs modification of parenting schedules in New Hampshire.  Unlike some other states, which allow for a modification simply based on the same “best interests of the child” standard used to form the initial parenting schedule, RSA 461-A:11 will only allow for a modification in specific circumstances.  RSA 461-A:11 states that a Court may modify a parenting schedule only in the following circumstances:

(a) where the parties agree to a modification of the parenting schedule
(b) If the court finds repeated, intentional, and unwarranted interference by a parent with the residential responsibilities of the other parent, the court may order a change in the parental rights and responsibilities without the necessity of showing harm to the child, if the court determines that such change would be in accordance with the best interests of the child.
(c) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health, and the advantage to the child of modifying the order outweighs the harm likely to be caused by a change in environment.
(d) If the parties have substantially equal periods of residential responsibility for the child and either each asserts or the court finds that the original allocation of parental rights and responsibilities is not working, the court may order a change in allocation of parental rights and responsibilities based on a finding that the change is in the best interests of the child.
(e) If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a minor child is of sufficient maturity to make a sound judgment, the court may give substantial weight to the preference of the mature minor child as to the parent with whom he or she wants to live. Under these circumstances, the court shall also give due consideration to other factors which may have affected the minor child’s preference, including whether the minor child’s preference was based on undesirable or improper influences.
(f) The modification makes either a minimal change or no change in the allocation of parenting time between the parents, and the court determines that such change would be in the best interests of the child.
(g) If one parent’s allocation of parenting time was based in whole or in part on the travel time between the parents’ residences at the time of the order and the parents are now living either closer to each other or further from each other by such distance that the existing order is not in the child’s best interest.
(h) If one parent’s allocation or schedule of parenting time was based in whole or in part on his or her work schedule and there has been a substantial change in that work schedule such that the existing order is not in the child’s best interest.
(i) If one parent’s allocation or schedule of parenting time was based in whole or in part on the young age of the child, the court may modify the allocation or schedule or both based on a finding that the change is in the best interests of the child, provided that the request is at least 5 years after the prior order.

              The strict nature of the statute as far as what Courts require parties to plead in order to modify a parenting schedule can make it more difficult for parents than expected to receive a modification from the Court without an agreement between the parties.  Despite these challenges, our family law team at Soule, Leslie, Kidder, Sayward & Loughman has helped many clients modify their parenting plans over the years, even in the face of fierce opposition by the co-parent.  If you would like to discuss modifying your parenting plan to better suit your child’s unique needs, feel free to contact us today.



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