Court Explains the Best Interest Standard in Florida Child Custody Cases

In Florida child custody matters, the court’s paramount concern is always what is in the best interest of the child that is the focus of the case. Thus, any time a party proposes a modification of a parenting plan, the courts must assess whether the change sought will benefit the child; if the court finds that it will not or that it may harm the child, it will generally deny the request. Recently, a Florida court discussed the process of analyzing whether a modification is in a child’s best interest in a child custody case. If you share custody of a child and you or your co-parent intend to seek a modification, it is prudent to confer with a Miami child custody attorney to evaluate your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, almost a decade after coming to an agreement regarding shared parental rights of two minor children, the mother and the father each filed motions seeking modification of the parenting plan. The father argued that the children, who were both teenagers at the time, suffered from parental alienation syndrome (PAS) and offered a social investigation report and numerous articles in support of his position.

Reportedly, to mitigate the PAS, the father asked the court to enroll the children in therapy, and to the extent that proved ineffective, sought a modification of his child support obligation and increased timesharing rights. In response, the mother sought an increase in child support and a decrease in the father’s timesharing rights, or in the alternative, enrollment in a family-based reunification program. The trial court ordered the children to participate in a reunification program and granted the father exclusive custody of the children, concluding without elaborating that participation in the program was in the children’s best interest. The mother appealed.

The Best Interest Standard in Florida Child Custody Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In its opinion, the court explained that the dispositive issues in modification cases are whether there is substantial and competent evidence showing a material, unanticipated, and significant change in circumstances and that the child’s welfare will be promoted by a modification of timesharing rights.

In the subject case, the court noted that the father bore the burden of showing that there had been a substantial change in circumstances since the original parenting plan was ratified and that the change he sought was in his children’s best interest. The court ultimately ruled that as the father failed to prove that the modification would benefit the children and the issue was dispositive, the trial court erred in granting the modification.

Speak to a Trusted Miami Attorney

In Florida child custody cases, the court’s main goal should be to rule in the best interest of the child that is the subject of the lawsuit, and rulings that fail to uphold this standard will most likely be reversed. If you need help establishing or protecting your parental rights, it is wise to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are mindful of the importance of maintaining the parent-child relationship, and if you engage our services, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. Our office is in Aventura, and we regularly represent people in custody cases in Miami. You can reach us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.