Florida Court Discusses Modifications of Parenting Plans

When faced with custody disputes, the Florida courts will typically take great care in drafting a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children involved. As such, a party that wishes to modify a parenting plan must show that a change has occurred since the plan was issued that is both lasting and substantial, must set forth their requested relief, and must show that the change warrants the relief sought. As discussed in a recent Florida ruling, if a court grants relief that is not requested, the court’s ruling may be reversed. If you need help with a disagreement over custody, it is smart to talk to a Miami child custody attorney about what steps you can take to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father were not married but shared a minor child who was born in 2010. In 2012, the trial court established a parenting plan that dictated shared parental responsibility and a 70/30 timesharing schedule, primarily in favor of the mother. The plan required phone contact between the child and the noncustodial parent on specified days. In 2019, the father was arrested for healthcare fraud, prompting an emergency order awarding the mother sole custody.

Allegedly, the father was convicted in 2020. While serving a federal prison sentence, he filed a petition to enforce the phone call schedule and filed a supplemental petition focusing on child support. Following a hearing, the trial court expanded the father’s visitation rights, ordering four prison visits a year and a modified phone call schedule. The mother appealed.

Modifications of Parenting Plans

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. The court acknowledged that the father’s incarceration constituted a substantial change in circumstances and that a modification could be warranted. The court noted, however, that requests for modification must be initiated by a supplemental petition, and the court cannot award relief not requested in the pleadings. Thus, as the father failed to properly plead or prove specific modifications to timesharing and communication were warranted in his motions, the court deemed the trial court’s decision to grant such modifications an abuse of discretion.

In other words, the court determined that the trial court erred in unilaterally crafting a new parenting plan without a proper pleading from the father. In making such modifications, the court found that the trial court violated the mother’s due process rights. As such, the court reversed the portions of the amended parenting plan related to timesharing and communication.

Meet with a Skilled Miami Attorney

After a court issues a final order setting forth a parenting plan in a custody dispute, the parties generally must offer evidence of a substantial and lasting change in circumstances in order to obtain a modification. If you have questions about your rights with regard to custody and timesharing, it is important to meet with an attorney. The skilled Miami child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are dedicated to helping people navigate the legal and emotional complexities of family law disputes, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to set up a meeting.