In 2009, a decision was reached by the New Hampshire Supreme Court In the Matter of Muchmore and Jaycox. The decision was based on the modification of parenting plan statute, titled RSA 461-A:11. At the time Muchmore was decided, the statute provided that only a substantial change in circumstances could justify a change to the parenting plan. In Muchmore, the father petitioned for a change in the parenting plan because it was in the best interests, he posited, of the minor child. The lower Court decided that a modification was appropriate, and granted his request. Our New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed, citing a strict application of the statute. The result was frustration by legal minds around New Hampshire, as the bar to hurdle for a modification was set too high.
In the decision, the Court insinuates that they have no other choice but to apply the statute as written. Thus, the Court seemed to be saying, that the New Hampshire legislature must reexamine the statute. That is exactly what the legislature did.
Over the past few months, the new version of RSA 461-A:11 has been in place. The changes made allows for minimal changes now, which was not present before. For instance, if the transportation location isn’t working for one party, the minimal change provision allows for a modification of this provision. This is important, as there are often subtle small changes that need to be made that helps all parties involved. The Court also included some language in the statutes that allows the Court to consider the best interests of the child in the context of the statute. The result has been a much smoother process, and it demonstrates that sometimes our legislature and Court system gets it right.
If you find yourself in need of a modification, contact the experienced lawyers at Parnell, Michels & McKay.