As children grow and develop, their circumstances and needs change. At the same time, the circumstances of their parents can also change. When those changes are so significant that the best interests of the child warrant a modification of a parenting plan, we can help. A modification case can proceed under one of two courses.

When Both Parties Agree

You may be wondering what happens when both parties agree to the change of custody. For example, if the child’s mother lives in the child’s school district and their father does not, both parents may agree that it’s best for the child to stay with his/her mother on weekdays and the father on weekends. If this schedule is not already part of the parenting plan, your schedules should be updated with the court. Otherwise, one party may claim that the other is not following what was stated in the parenting plan.

To protect yourself legally, it’s always best to consult a lawyer for custody modification cases. The court will always try to do what’s best for the child rather than what’s more convenient for the parents.

When The Parties Disagree

As you can imagine, when both parties disagree about how custody should be split, it makes matters a little more complicated. For example, if custody is split 70/30 between each parent, the one who’s seeing their child less frequently may want to fight for 50/50 custody. In this case, the court will need to hear both sides of the dispute and make a decision. However, there are a few things to note.

Substantial and Unanticipated Change of Circumstances

The court will only modify custody when current circumstances were unanticipated at the time of the original hearing and substantial enough to warrant a change of custody. What this means is that you can’t go back to court just because you didn’t like the court’s previous ruling. There needs to be a change of circumstances that affects the child’s well-being, and the proposed modification must serve the best interests of the child.

Factors to Consider

The way the court reacts to a proposed custody modification will vary based on the specific circumstances. However, when setting out a parenting plan, the court is required to consider a list of factors found in Florida Statute 61.13:

  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
  • The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
  • The moral fitness of the parents.
  • The mental and physical health of the parents.
  • The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  • The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
  • The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
  • Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  • The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
  • The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
  • Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

Schedule a Consultation

When you need to modify your parenting plan, you need to work with an experienced family law attorney. Although custody modifications may seem like something that would be quick and easy, they are not always so, especially when both parties disagree. We have represented 1,000’s of individuals and families in family law cases involving custody and visitation. Give us a call at (850) 613-6923 for more information or if you’re ready to get started.