Articles Posted in Modification (Custody/Time Sharing)

For many parents, events in their lives may trigger within them a desire to reconnect with the children from whom they’ve become distant. Depending on the perspective of the child’s other parent, this may not always be easy. A recent case originating in Palm Beach County is a useful reminder to all Florida parents that, even if your desire to forge a closer relationship is strong, you cannot demand a change in your timesharing based solely upon proving that you’ve gotten your life in order. Simply getting your life back on track doesn’t amount to the sort of change in circumstances recognized by Florida law that would allow a court to change your timesharing schedule, according to a Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling.

The case, which involved ex-spouses C.R. (father) and S.R. (mother), was based on a complicated, although not entirely uncommon, set of facts. The husband and wife had one minor child together when they divorced in 2008. As part of that divorce judgment, the court ordered shared parental responsibility with the mother as the primary residential parent. The father had visitation twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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A mother whose custody arrangement with her daughter unraveled after an involuntary psychological commitment in 2010 achieved a measure of success in a recent ruling from the 2d District Court of Appeal. While the appeals court upheld a trial court’s decision regarding primary residential custody of the child, the appeals court struck down mandates barring the mother from speaking her native Spanish to the child and forcing the mother to pay the entire bill for the timesharing supervisor who was required to attend all of the mother’s supervised visitations.

The case involved the daughter of D.F. (husband) and his then-wife, P.F.. The couple, who married in 2003, split up in 2006 shortly after the daughter’s birth. The marital settlement agreement included a timesharing schedule in which the girl resided with her mother four days per week, and with her father for three days. The agreement also named the mother as the primary residential custodian.

The mother was involuntarily committed in 2010 for psychological reasons. The father went to court seeking an emergency order to revoke the mother’s timesharing and to have himself named primary residential custodian. The court entered the order. About a week later, the mother was released and began fighting to overturn the emergency order. What ensued was a protracted battle regarding decision-making, timesharing, who was responsible for paying the timesharing supervisor, and other related issues. The trial court issued an order that kept the father as primary residential custodian and imposed many restrictions on the mother.

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A recent case originating in Jacksonville led the 1st District Court of Appeal to throw out part of a trial court’s decision to modify a parenting plan and calculate child support. The evidence in the case did not show that a substantial change in circumstances had taken place to warrant a plan modification, and there was also insufficient evidence to support the manner in which the trial court calculated each parent’s income in arriving at the father’s support obligation amount.

The case centered around the daughter of T.B. (father) and V.B. (mother), a couple who divorced in 2005. In 2011, the father sought to amend the parenting plan. He also filed a motion asking the court to lower his child support obligation.

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One of the most frustrating things for a parent can be when the other parent does not comply with the parameters for timesharing established by the court. When that happens, the parent who has lost time with the child has certain legal options. It is important to understand what the law can and cannot do for you in these situations, and what you must establish to achieve a favorable outcome. One recent example of this was a case from Volusia County in which the 5th District Court of Appeal threw out a trial court order that modified timesharing in the father’s favor after the mother repeatedly failed to meet her obligations under the original timesharing order.

Originally, T.K. (father) and K.C. (mother) mutually worked out a timesharing arrangement regarding their child as part of a paternity action. However, 10 months later, T.K., a member of the military stationed in southern California, was back in court asking that K.C. be held in contempt. The mother, on three different occasions, improperly blocked the father from exercising his timesharing, according to T.K. The trial court held a short evidentiary hearing and concluded that the mother was in contempt for multiple violations of the parenting plan. The trial court awarded the father his attorney’s fees and court costs, and it also altered the parenting plan. Under the modified plan, each parent had the child 50% of the time, rotating in three-month intervals.
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Generally, in order to obtain a modification in your timesharing agreement, both parents must be placed on notice that the court’s ruling may bring about a change in the current plan. In some situations, a court may alter the timesharing arrangement without notice if an emergency exists. The 3d District Court of Appeal recently overturned a Miami-Dade County trial court order because the mother did not have proper notice, and the conditions for an emergency change did not exist.

After several years of marriage, Tal Bronstein and Elizabeth Bronstein divorced in 2012. The couple had one minor child. By the time the divorce was finalized, the husband lived in Colorado.
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The long-running and often contentious child custody dispute between pro basketball star Dwyane Wade and his ex-wife, Siohvaughn Funches, added a new chapter recently when the 3d District Court of Appeal issued a ruling upholding a timesharing decision made last year by a Miami-Dade trial judge. Although rejecting the mother’s appeal, the court warned lawyers on both sides regarding their behavior in email exchanges between the two sides. The case offers a reminder that, regardless of the amount of financial resources, child custody matters are often very emotional and hard-fought disputes.

Wade and his wife filed for divorce in 2007, which was finalized three years later after a long and arduous battle. During their marriage, the couple had two sons. In 2011, the father obtained a court order from a judge in Chicago granting him sole custody of both of the boys. The Illinois court’s custody ruling was domesticated to, and became enforceable in, Florida a year later.
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Following time-sharing schedules can sometimes be complicated, especially when timesharing involves a child who is old enough to have a desire to assert her own self-control over where she lives. Even when faced with a child who does not want to return to the home of your ex-spouse, it is important to note that failure to follow court-ordered dates for returning a child to Florida from outside the state (or country) can have damaging impacts on your custody rights. In case recently decided by the 5th District Court of Appeal, that court ruled that an emergency order granting custody to a mother was legal even though the trial court never determined that it was in the daughter’s best interest. The court was not required to address the daughter’s best interests because the father engaged in an “improper removal” by failing to bring the daughter back to Florida from the United Kingdom on the date the court had established a month earlier.
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The implementation of a parenting plan hopefully represents the culmination of a collaborative process to create an outcome in the best interests of the children involved. Sometimes, though, circumstances change, and those changes may trigger the need for a modification of the plan. When they do, the Florida Statutes have some specific requirements regarding what must be established in order to modify a custody arrangement, especially if that modification involves stripping one parent of all decision-making authority.

A recent example of this in the 5th District Court of Appeal was the custody dispute between two parents. The couple married in 1993, but after a decade and a half of marriage, the husband filed for divorce. The couple’s 2009 marital settlement agreement called for a fairly common custody arrangement, with the mother getting primary physical custody, the father getting visitation, and the parents agreeing to share “parental responsibility on all aspects of the children’s lives.” The agreement also called for the father to pay child support.
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A recent child custody battle represents the potential hurdles that can sometimes arise when trial courts attempt creative compromises. The 4th District Court of Appeal recently issued a ruling throwing out a trial court’s modified timesharing plan because the plan was something neither parent had proposed and neither side had any notice was a possible outcome.

A couple, K. and O., lived in Palm Beach County during their marriage and had one child together. After they split, the husband moved to the Florida Keys for work-related reasons. Initially, the child spent three days a week with one parent and four with the other. This timesharing plan had the benefit of giving the parents an approximately 50-50 split in timesharing, but it also presented a problem in that it required the child to travel 400 miles (round-trip) every week back and forth between Lake Worth and Bahia Honda.
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Crafting parenting and time-sharing plans are challenging enough under ordinary circumstances. When the child whose custody must be resolved also has special needs, the decisions become even more difficult. However, when these cases go to court, the law imposes the same analysis as all other parenting plan and time-sharing matters. Namely, the court must decide based upon the best interest of the child. The law does not require the involvement of guardians ad litem or expert witnesses, as one recent Third District Court of Appeal ruling highlighted.

A Florida man and woman, both of whom were deaf, had a son who was also deaf. The mother and son lived in Broward County, and the mother enrolled the boy at a school in Pompano Beach with both deaf and non-impaired students. The father, who lived in St. John’s County, sought to modify the time-sharing plan so that the child could attend the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, located in St. Augustine near the father’s home. The school offered education entirely in sign language and also allowed deaf students like the son to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics.

At the end of the first day of trial, the judge expressed that he “needed” to appoint a guardian ad litem. However, since the court could not find a guardian fluent in sign language, no appointment was made. Ultimately, the trial judge sided with the father, ordering that the father have the child during the school year, with the mother receiving custody during the summers, and the parents would alternate weekends with the boy.
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