What Reasons Permit The Modification Of A Parenting Time Order?

"Parenting time" is the updated term for what was more commonly referred to in the past as "visitation." A parenting time schedule is a plan for how the parents will share time with their minor children. The parent who is not the residential parent (i.e., the person who the children do not live with) typically has parenting time with the minor children.

Parents of minor children whose marriages have ended in divorce, annulment, or legal separation, or parents who were never married, need to define which parent will have parenting time with the minor children, and when that parenting time will occur. Parenting time in Ohio can be determined by agreement of the parties, by entering into a Shared Parenting Plan, which is then journalized via a Shared Parenting Decree. A Shared Parenting Decree is an Order of the Court. If the parties cannot agree, the Court will establish a parenting time schedule and will journalize that schedule in an Order.

Many counties in Ohio have Local Rules which provide model parenting time schedules. A model parenting time schedule may be followed, or it may be determined by the Court, and/or by agreement of the parties, that a different schedule would be in the best interests of the minor children. Whether the parenting time schedule is established by the Court, or by agreement of the parties (with the Court's approval), an established parenting time schedule provide both parents with consistent contact with their children, and affords the minor children a predictable routine. However, there may come a time where one or both parents seek a modification to an existing parenting time Order.

Parenting Time Modifications

Section 3109.04 of the Ohio Revised Code provides the Court with a variety of options when handling child custody and parenting time issues. However, once a Shared Parenting Decree or other Order establishing parenting time is in effect, it can only be modified by filing a Motion with the Court.

If the parties have previously entered into a Shared Parenting Plan which has been journalized by a Shared Parenting Decree, and if the parties agree to what changes should be made to the parenting time schedule, the parties may file a Joint Motion to Modify Shared Parenting Plan. If the parties are not in agreement as to what changes should be made to the Shared Parenting Plan, or if parenting time is established under another Order which is not a Shared Parenting Decree, then either of the parents may file an individual Motion to Modify.

Pursuant to Section 3109.04 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Court will not modify its prior Orders, including parenting time, unless the Court finds, based on facts that have arisen since the previous Shared Parenting Decree or Order was issued, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child, the child's residential parent, or either of the parents, and that the modification of the prior Orders of the Court is needed to provide for the best interests of the minor children.

What Does the "Best Interests of the Child" Mean?

There are statutory requirements for determining what is in the best interests of a minor child. In determining the best interests of the child, the Court will take into consideration all of the relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The wishes of the child's parents regarding the child's care;
  • The wishes of the child, if the minor child has been interviewed by the Court;
  • The child's interaction with the child's parents, siblings, and any other individuals who may have a significant impact on the child's best interest;
  • The child's adjustment to the child's home, school and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all persons involved;
  • The parent more likely to honor the Court-approved parenting time;
  • Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments;
  • Whether either parent has been convicted of certain criminal offenses;
  • Whether either parent has continuously and willfully denied the other parent's right to parenting time; and
  • Whether either parent has establish a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside the state.

The Bottom Line

Before attempting to modify parenting time, whether or not both parents are in agreement regarding possible changes, it is important that you speak with an attorney. A skilled domestic relations attorney will advise you as to what your options are, and as to what is possible under the law.