Updated: Jan 17
Teens are well known for pushing boundaries and learning how to experience life in their own unique ways. A parenting plan that made everyone happy when they were younger might not fit into their new schedule as they come into adulthood. A robust social life can easily complicate visitation plans, but you don’t want your teen to view visiting your ex-spouse as a punishment. As a parent, it’s important to know what you are legally responsible for and how to manage expectations with your teen.
In Washington, parents must do everything reasonable for the court order to be respected. “Reasonable” is a subjective term, but it doesn’t mean that you have to drag your teen, kicking and screaming, all the way to your ex-spouse’s home. Start by talking to your teen to learn more about why they don’t want to continue visitation. The conversation should be open and casual without assuming your teen will be forthright or even know how to articulate exactly why they don’t want to visit their other parent. If visiting their other parent is simply a nuisance to them, try discussing possible options with your ex-spouse. Can the other parent commit to supporting your teen’s specific preferences or arrange transportation to and from social gatherings to make their home feel more comfortable?
If this becomes a consistent issue, or in situations where your teen and your ex-spouse have developed a strained relationship, it’s time to discuss therapy. Your teen and their other parent may need to attend family therapy sessions together to work through their differences and get a full understanding of the situation. Sometimes therapy is not enough, or only one or neither of the two are committed to therapy.
Mediation is another alternative that can be beneficial for everyone involved. Contracting a mediator can ease a lot of tension between you, your teen, and their other parent. An impartial third party can bring clarity to an often emotional situation. Your teen may even feel like they’re being taken seriously and appreciate that what matters to them also matters to you. Sometimes teens feel like they need to regain a little more control in their life. If mediation does not work, it may be time to modify the parenting plan in court.
Parenting Plan Modification
It must be said that modifying the parenting plan is not an easy undertaking. Going to court should be the absolute last resort. However, in situations where you are the parent your teen is avoiding, you may need to go to court to enforce the parenting plan. In some cases, you may also need to determine if the other parent is influencing your teen’s behavior.
If you decide to file a petition to modify your parenting plan you will be required to provide a specific list of changes you need to make. As the petitioner, you also bear the burden of proof. There needs to be a substantial change in circumstances in order for the request to be approved. Substantial change includes situations like a parent becoming terminally ill, or relocates long-distance. The judge determines whether there is a case by requiring you to appear for an “adequate cause” hearing. The court wants to make sure that any changes are serving the best interests of the child.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you want a resolution that works best for you and your family. Even if you are still in the early stages, you can still benefit from counsel. We are here to help guide you through this difficult time. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation at 206-336-9195 ext. 0.