Child custody orders may become outdated as life circumstances change, compelling one parent to seek a modification. On the other hand, you may be confronted by a request from the other parent to change custody, but believe the previous order should stay as is. Florida family courts allow child custody to be modified in some scenarios. Understanding the requirements for doing so is critical, regardless of which side of the case you’re on.
Orlando Family Team works on behalf of parents who need to make changes to parenting plans and custody arrangements for the benefit of their children. We also fight to prevent such changes when they would not be in the child’s best interests. We can get started on your custody modification matter today.
Which Custody Orders Can Be Modified?
It’s inevitable that as children grow up and parents move on with their lives, things will change. Some changes are for the better and some for the worse. But if they affect the child, the court may need to revisit child custody.
However, the first thing any parent should know is that not every life change is enough to support modification. In Florida, family courts are only concerned if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last order was entered. This change must also affect the child’s best interests in some way.
What Are Some Examples Of Substantial Changes In Circumstances For A Child Custody Modification?
Whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances will vary from one case to another. Typically, one parent’s ability to take care of the child will be negatively affected in some way. In any event, the child’s best interests will somehow be impacted.
These are a few examples that may qualify as substantial changes in circumstances:
A parent, or both parents, can’t make the current schedule work. For one reason or another, one or both parents may find it difficult to abide by the existing parenting plan. Career changes, work obligations, and other situations could make it hard for one parent to either spend time with the child or make the child available for time with the other parent. Courts want both parents in the child’s life, so the judge may order a modification to accommodate these changes.
Relocation. If a parent moves, especially out of state, it could prove difficult or impossible to abide by the same custody and visitation plan. Not all moves necessarily require the court to get involved. But if the relocation makes it so the other parent cannot see the child, a modification might be warranted.
Drug or alcohol abuse. A parent who develops a drug or alcohol problem would likely become less fit as a parent. There are instances in which one parent shows up to visitation intoxicated, or drives with the child while under the influence. Cases involving drug or alcohol abuse may require immediate court intervention if the child’s well-being is put at risk.
Physical or sexual abuse or neglect. If a child is being physically or sexually abused or neglected while in the custody of one parent, there’s a strong chance the other parent will succeed in asking for a modification. For obvious reasons, the court may need to get involved on an emergency basis, so ask your attorney if you suspect these circumstances are present.
Sickness or injury. If a parent gets sick or injured and is unable to care for the child, a modification may be warranted. Remember, courts want to know whether either party’s ability to effectively and properly parent the child is affected in some way. The change in custody may be temporary while the sick or injured parent recovers, or it could be permanent.
How Can Parents Obtain A Child Custody Modification?
There are two main ways for parents to modify a prior child custody order. The first, and easiest, is for the parents to discuss the necessary changes and mutually consent to modifying it. If the parents agree in general to the modification, they can then approach their respective lawyers, who will draft a new parenting agreement and submit it to the judge for approval. It’s important to keep in mind that even if you and the other parent agree to the change, the judge has to review and approve it first to ensure it’s in the child’s best interests.
If the parents cannot agree on modifying the order, then the parent requesting the modification can file a petition with the court to do so. Along with this petition, the parent asking for the change will need to prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Finally, that parent will need to submit a new parenting plan to the court that is in the child’s best interests.
How Can An Attorney Help?
If you and the other parent agree to the modification, it’s still a good idea to have an attorney properly draft and file the necessary paperwork. The proposed parenting plan, for instance, needs to be comprehensive and clearly in the child’s best interests. The importance of retaining an attorney becomes even more pronounced if you and the other parent don’t agree to the change and a hearing becomes necessary.
It may be that you and the other parent agree in principle to the modification, but can’t work out the details. In that case, mediation could prove effective at resolving any disagreements. We represent child custody clients in mediation to ensure their rights are protected and to help reach an agreement that the judge will approve.
Contact Our Orlando Child Custody Modification Attorney
Ready to get started on your modification? Is the other parent requesting a modification that you don’t agree to? Give the Orlando Family Team a call. We can schedule your consultation today.