What are parental responsibilities?
Parental responsibilities means making important decisions for, spending time with, and taking care of a child. For example, a parent must provide food, clothing, shelter, and education for their child. The court usually decides who gets parental responsibilities when married parents divorce or when a court establishes a child's parentage if the parents are not married.
- Significant decision-making responsibility means important decisions for a child in the areas of education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and religion. The court can give one or both parents significant decision-making responsibilities.
- Parenting time means the time the child spends with each parent, including which parent the child will live with. The court usually gives both parents parenting time, but time is not always equal. The child usually lives mostly with one parent and has regular contact with the other parent.
Parental responsibilities are decided by a judge and put into order. If a person wants to change that order, they can file a motion.
Changing parental responsibilities
A parent can change their parental responsibilities even if the other parent doesn't agree. However, the process is much easier if both parents agree to the change.
An agreement is when both parents understand and agree to all the changes to the parental responsibilities order. This could include:
- The child moves in with a different parent;
- A different parent is making the day-to-day decisions about the child;
- A different parent has to pay child support;
- How the parents spend time with the child (parenting time) changes;
- How the child is raised is decided differently; and
- Be sure you understand how any changes in parental responsibilities will affect your duties as a parent.
Even if the parents agree, they must file court papers to ask the judge to change parental responsibilities for it to be legal. They will be able to make the change more quickly than parents who do not agree.
If you and the other parent agree to the change, you can change parental responsibilities at any time. If you do not agree, you must wait two years after the original parental responsibilities order. The only exception is if the child is in danger.
If the other parent doesn't agree with the change, you have to prove to the judge that things have changed since the current order was signed. The difference must be significant, like that the other parent has relocated. However, if the change you're asking for is small, or reflects the way the child has been living for the past six months, you don't have to show that circumstances have changed.
Updated: September 2017