Florida Court Discusses Grounds for Modification of Custody Rights

In Florida, the best interest of the child standard dictates how custody cases are handled. In other words, regardless of whether the courts issue a parenting plan or the parties independently come to an agreement that the court then affirms, the plan must promote the child’s health and well-being. As such, to demonstrate a parenting plan should be modified a party will typically have to show a substantial change in circumstances. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, as explained in a recent Florida ruling issued in a custody action. If you want to learn more about what steps you can take to protect your parental rights, it is wise to confer with an assertive Miami custody attorney.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother and father entered into a parenting plan outlining a series of timesharing schedules that would progressively increase the father’s time with the minor child over three years. The plan included a provision stating that by March 1, 2019, the parties would revisit the timesharing schedule, with the option to modify it without filing a supplemental petition for modification if they could not agree, in which case the matter would be submitted to the court.

Allegedly, the father subsequently petitioned for the modification. The mother moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that there was no change in circumstances that warranted a modification. The court agreed and ruled in favor of the mother. The father appealed.

Grounds for Modification of Custody Rights

On appeal, the issue before the court was whether the father was required to demonstrate a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances to modify the existing timesharing agreement.

The court noted that the trial court ruled that the father failed to meet the burden of proving a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances necessary for modification. The court disagreed that such a change was necessary for the modification, however. Citing recent caselaw, the court clarified that when parties agree to specific terms regarding timesharing modification in a parenting plan, they may deviate from the standard substantial change test typically required for modification.

In this case, the parenting plan explicitly stated a milestone date for timesharing reevaluation without prejudice, allowing either party to seek modification without demonstrating a substantial change in circumstances. As such, the court concluded that the trial court erred in applying the general change in circumstances burden to the modification request, as the parenting plan provided an alternative procedure for modification. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment on the pleadings and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Consult a Knowledgeable Miami Attorney

Regardless of whether a court is issuing a new parenting plan or modifying an existing one, the main concern in any custody action is what is in the child’s best interest. If you are involved in a custody dispute, it is advisable to talk to an attorney about your options. The knowledgeable Miami child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can inform you of your rights and help you to seek a favorable outcome. You can contact us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to arrange a conference.