It is common for divorced parents in Montana to find that changing circumstances make their current parenting plan impossible to adhere to. However, the difficulties that arise for one parent may not be acknowledged by the other. Even when one parent does not agree to a change, the other can request that the court approve a modification to the original parenting plan.
According to the Montana Judicial Branch, there are a number of forms for a parent to complete and file to request the modification. These include the following information:
- The formal request for the changes
- The reason for the request
- The proposed schedule
There are also forms that the family law judge will complete, including an Order to Show Cause, which schedules the hearing and informs the other parent of the date. The forms must all be delivered to that parent by a local sheriff or by a process server. At the hearing, both parents will present their arguments for and against the proposed changes.
According to the Montana Code 40-4-219, the judge's primary consideration is whether the changes serve the child's best interests. This determination may depend on a number of factors:
- The social, educational and developmental needs of the child
- The age of the child and his or her willingness to agree to the changes
- Any attempt on the part of one parent to deny the other parent of contact with the child
- A move or intended move by one parent that will affect the other parent's ability to maintain contact with the child
The judge may agree that the parenting plan needs to be modified, but he or she may also recognize that the proposed plan submitted by one parent is not fair to the other parent. In this case, the judge may order the parents to attend mediation.